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Supreme Court of India

Atma S. Berar vs Mukhtiar Singh on 12 December, 2002

The power of the Court to take note of subsequent events is well-settled and undoubted. However, it is accompanied by three riders : firstly, the subsequent event should be brought promptly to the notice of the Court; secondly, it should be brought to the notice of the Court consistently with rules of procedure enabling Court to take note of such events and affording the opposite party an opportunity of meeting or explaining such events; and thirdly, the subsequent event must have a material bearing on right to relief of any party.



Affidavit - whether evidence within the meaning of Section 3 of the Evidence Act, 1872:


It is a settled legal proposition that an affidavit is not evidence within the meaning of Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Evidence Act’).


Affidavits are therefore, not included within the purview of the definition of "evidence" as has been given in Section 3 of the Evidence Act, and the same can be used as "evidence" only if, for sufficient reasons, the Court passes an order under Order XIX of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘CPC’). Thus, the filing of an affidavit of one’s own statement, in one’s own favour, cannot be regarded as sufficient evidence for any Court or Tribunal, on the basis of which it can come to a conclusion as regards a particular fact-situation. (Vide: Sudha Devi v. M.P. Narayanan & Ors., AIR 1988 SC 1381; and Range Forest Officer v. S.T. Hadimani, AIR 2002 SC 1147).


While examining a case under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, this Court, in M/s Bareilly Electricity Supply Co. Ltd. v. The Workmen & Ors., AIR 1972 SC 330, considered the application of Order XIX, Rules 1 and 2 CPC, and observed as under:-


"But the application of principles of natural justice does not imply that what is not evidence, can be acted upon. On the other hand, what it means is that no material can be relied upon to establish a contested fact which are not spoken to by the persons who are competent to speak about them and are subject to cross-examination by the party against whom they are sought to be used. When a document is produced in a Court or a Tribunal, the question that naturally arises is: is it a genuine document, what are its contents and are the statements contained therein true...... If a letter or other document is produced to establish some fact which is relevant to the inquiry, the writer must be produced or his affidavit in respect thereof be filed and opportunity afforded to the opposite party who challenges this fact. This is both in accordance with the principles of natural justice as also according to the procedure under O. 19 of the Code and the Evidence Act, both of which incorporate the general principles."


In Needle Industries (India) Ltd. & Ors. v. N.I.N.I.H. Ltd. & Ors., AIR 1981 SC 1298, this Court considered a case under the Indian Companies Act, and observed that, “it is generally unsatisfactory to record a finding involving grave consequences with respect to a person, on the basis of affidavits and documents alone, without asking that person to submit to cross-examination”. However, the conduct of the parties may be an important factor, with regard to determining whether they showed their willingness to get the said issue determined on the basis of affidavits, correspondence and other documents, on the basis of which proper and necessary inferences can safely and legitimately be drawn.


In Ramesh Kumar v. Kesho Ram, AIR 1992 SC 700, this Court considered the scope of application of the provisions of O. XIX, Rr. 1 and 2 CPC in a Rent Control matter, observing as under:-


"The Court may also treat any affidavit filed in support of the pleadings itself as one under the said provisions and call upon the opposite side to traverse it. The Court, if it finds that having regard to the nature of the allegations, it is necessary to record oral evidence tested by oral cross- examination, may have recourse to that procedure."

In Standard Chartered Bank v. Andhra Bank Financial Services Ltd. & Ors., (2006) 6 SCC 94, this Court while dealing with a case under the provisions of Companies Act, 1956, while considering complex issues regarding the Markets, Exchanges and Securities, and the procedure to be followed by special Tribunals, held as under :


“While it may be true that the Special Court has been given a certain amount of latitude in the matter of procedure, it surely cannot fly away from established legal principles while deciding the cases before it. As to what inference arises from a document, is always a matter of evidence unless the document is self-explanatory…….In the absence of any such explanation, it was not open to the Special Court to come up with its own explanations and decide the fate of the suit on the basis of its inference based on such assumed explanations.”

Therefore, affidavits in the light of the aforesaid discussion are not considered to be evidence, within the meaning of Section 3 of the Evidence Act. However, in a case where the deponent is available for cross-examination, and opportunity is given to the other side to cross-examine him, the same can be relied upon. Such view, stands fully affirmed particularly, in view of the amended provisions of Order XVIII, Rules 4 & 5 CPC. In certain other circumstances, in order to avoid technicalities of procedure, the legislature, or a court/tribunal, can even lay down a procedure to meet the requirement of compliance with the principles of natural justice, and thus, the case will be examined in the light of those statutory rules etc. as framed by the aforementioned authorities.

(vide : Supreme Court of India Ayaaubkhan Noorkhan Pathan vs State Of Maharashtra & Ors on 8 November, 2012)


Supreme Court of India

Laxmi Raj Shetty And Anr vs State Of Tamil Nadu on 26 April, 1988

It is now well-settled that a statement of fact contained in a newspapers is merely hearsay and therefore inadmissible in evidence in the absence of the maker of the statement appearing in Court and deposing to have perceived the fact reported. The accused should have therefore produced the persons in whose presence the seizure of the stolen money from appellant no. 2's house at Mangalore was effected or examined the press correspondents in proof of the truth of the contents of the news item.

The question as to the admissibility of newspaper reports has been dealt with by this Court in Samant N. Balakrishna v. George Fernandez & Ors.,[1969] 3 SCR 603. There the question arose whether Shri George Fernandez, the successful candidate returned to Parliament from the Bombay South Parliamentary Constituency had delivered a speech at Shivaji Park attributed to him as reported in the Maratha, a widely circulated Marathi newspaper in Bombay, and it was said:"A newspaper report without any further proof of what had actually happened through witnesses is of no value. It is at best a second-hand secondary evidence. It is well known that reporters collect information and pass it on to the editor who edits the news item and then publishes it. In this process the truth might get perverted or garbled. Such news items cannot be said to prove themselves although they may be taken into account with other evidence if the other evidence is forcible."


Similarly, this Court in Sunil Mehta & Anr. v. State of Gujarat & Anr., JT 2013 (3) SC 328, held that “It is trite that evidence within the meaning of the Evidence Act and so also within the meaning of Section 244 of the Cr.P.C. is what is recorded in the manner stipulated under Section 138 in the case of oral evidence. Documentary evidence would similarly be evidence only if the documents are proved in the manner recognised and provided for under the Evidence Act unless of course a statutory provision makes the document admissible as evidence without any formal proof thereof.”


The majority view of the Constitution Bench in Ramnarayan Mor & Anr. v. The State of Maharashtra, AIR 1964 SC 949 has been as under:


“9. It was urged in the alternative by counsel for the appellants that even if the expression “evidence” may include documents, such documents would only be those which are duly proved at the enquiry for commitment, because what may be used in a trial, civil or criminal, to support the judgment of a Court is evidence duly proved according to law. But by the Evidence Act which applies to the trial of all criminal cases, the expression “evidence” is defined in Section 3 as meaning and including all statements which the Court permits or requires to be made before it by witnesses, in relation to matters of fact under enquiry and documents produced for the inspection of the Court. There is no restriction in this definition to documents which are duly proved by evidence.”


Supreme Court of India

Kalyan Kumar Gogoi vs Ashutosh Agnihotri & Anr on 18 January, 2011

The word `evidence' is used in common parlance in three different senses : (a) as equivalent to relevant (b) as equivalent to proof and (c) as equivalent to the material, on the basis of which courts come to a conclusion about the existence or non-existence of disputed facts. Though, in the definition of the word "evidence" given in Section 3 of the Evidence Act one finds only oral and documentary evidence, this word is also used in phrases such as : best evidence, circumstantial evidence, corroborative evidence, derivative evidence, direct evidence, documentary evidence, hearsay evidence, indirect evidence, oral evidence, original evidence, presumptive evidence, primary evidence, real evidence, secondary evidence, substantive evidence, testimonial evidence, etc. The idea of best evidence is implicit in the Evidence Act. Evidence under the Act, consists of statements made by a witness or contained in a document. If it is a case of oral evidence, the Act requires that only that person who has actually perceived something by that sense, by which it is capable of perception, should make the statement about it and no one else. If it is documentary evidence, the Evidence Act requires that ordinarily the original should be produced, because a copy may contain omissions or mistakes of a deliberate or accidental nature. These principles are expressed in Sections 60 and 64 of the Evidence Act.

The term `hearsay' is used with reference to what is done or written as well as to what is spoken and in its legal sense, it denotes that kind of evidence which does not derive its value solely from the credit given to the witness himself, but which rests also, in part, on the veracity and competence of some other person. The word `hearsay' is used in various senses. Sometimes it means whatever a person is heard to say. Sometimes it means whatever a person declares on information given by someone else and sometimes it is treated as nearly synonymous with irrelevant. The sayings and doings of third person are, as a rule, irrelevant, so that no proof of them can be admitted. Every act done or spoken which is relevant on any ground must be proved by someone who saw it with his own eyes and heard it with his own ears.


Here comes the rule of appreciation of hearsay evidence. Hearsay evidence is excluded on the ground that it is always desirable, in the interest of justice, to get the person, whose statement is relied upon, into court for his examination in the regular way, in order that many possible sources of inaccuracy and untrustworthiness can be brought to light and exposed, if they exist, by the test of cross- examination. The phrase "hearsay evidence" is not used in the Evidence Act because it is inaccurate and vague. It is a fundamental rule of evidence under the Indian Law that hearsay evidence is inadmissible. A statement, oral or written, made otherwise than a witness in giving evidence and a statement contained or recorded in any book, document or record whatever, proof of which is not admitted on other grounds, are deemed to be irrelevant for the purpose of proving the truth of the matter stated. An assertion other than one made by a person while giving oral evidence in the proceedings is inadmissible as evidence of any fact asserted. That this species of evidence cannot be tested by cross-examination and that, in many cases, it supposes some better testimony which ought to be offered in a particular case, are not the sole grounds for its exclusion. Its tendency to protract legal investigations to an embarrassing and dangerous length, its intrinsic weakness, its incompetency to satisfy the mind of a Judge about the existence of a fact, and the fraud which may be practiced with impunity, under its cover, combine to support the rule that hearsay evidence is inadmissible.


The reasons why hearsay evidence is not received as relevant evidence are: (a) the person giving such evidence does not feel any responsibility. The law requires all evidence to be given under personal responsibility, i.e., every witness must give his testimony, under such circumstance, as expose him to all the penalties of falsehood. If the person giving hearsay evidence is cornered, he has a line of escape by saying "I do not know, but so and so told me", (b) truth is diluted and diminished with each repetition and (c) if permitted, gives ample scope for playing fraud by saying "someone told me that...........". It would be attaching importance to false rumour flying from one foul lip to another. Thus statement of witnesses based on information received from others is inadmissible.


Supreme Court of India

Prithi Chand vs State Of Himachal Pradesh on 17 January, 1989

Section 32 of the Evidence Act provides that when a statement, written or verbal, is made by a person in the discharge of professional duty whose attendance cannot be procured without an amount of delay, the same is relevant and admissible in evidence. Besides, since one carbon copy was made by one uniform process the same was primary evidence within the meaning of explanation 2 to Section 62 of the Evidence Act. Therefore the medical certificate Ex. P-E was clearly admissible in evidence. That apart, there is strong, reliable and dependable evidence of the prosecution witnesses which clearly proves that the prosecutrix was raped by the appellant.


R. M. Malkani vs State Of Maharashtra on 22 September, 1972

Under section 146 of the Evidence Act questions might be put to the witness to test the veracity of the witness. Again under section 153 of the Evidence Act a witness might be contradicted when he denied any question tending to impeach his impartiality. This is because the previous statement is furnished by the tape recorded conversation. The tape itself becomes the primary and direct evidence of what has been said and recorded. Tape recorded conversation is admissible provided first the conversation is relevant to the matters in issue; secondly, there is identification of the voice'; and. thirdly, the accuracy of the tape recorded conversation is proved by eliminating the possibility of erasing the tape record. A contemporaneous tape record of a relevant conversation is a relevant fact and is admissible under section 8 of the Evidence Act. It is res gestae. It is also comparable to a photograph of a relevant incident. The tape recorded conversation is therefore a relevant fact and is admissible under section 7 of the Evidence Act. Such Evidence will also not be hit by section 162 Of Cr.PC .

In Ysufalli Esmail Nagree v. The State of Maharashtra - the appellant offered bribe to Sheikh a Municipal Clerk. Sheikh informed the Police. The Police laid a trap. Sheikh called Nagree at the residence. The Police kept a tape recorder concealed in another room. The tape was kept in the custody of the police inspector. Sheikh gave evidence of the talk. The tape record corroborated his testimony. as a photograph taken without the knowledge of the person photographed can become relevant and admissible so does a tape record of a conversation unnoticed by the talkers. The Court will take care in two directions in admitting such evidence. First, the Court will find out that it is genuine and free from tampering or mutilation. Secondly, the Court may also secures scrupulous conduct and behaviour on behalf of the Police. The reason is that the Police Officer is more likely to behave properly if improperly obtained evidence is liable to be viewed with care and caution by the Judge. In every case the position of the accused, the nature of the investigation and the gravity of the offence must be judged in the light of the material facts and the Surrounding circumstances.


The admissibility of evidence procured in consequence of illegal searches and other unlawful acts was applied in a English decision in R. v. Maqsud Ali-In that case two persons suspected of murder went voluntarily with the Police Officers to a room in which, unknown to them, there was a microphone connected with a tape-recorder in another room. They were left alone in the room. They proceeded to have a conversation in which incriminating remarks were made. The conversation was recorded on the tape. The Court of Criminal Appeal held that the trial Judge had correctly admitted the tape-recording of the incriminating conversation in evidence. It was said "that the method of the informer and of the eavesdropper is commonly used in the detection of crime. The only difference here was that a mechanical device was the eavesdropper". The Courts often say that detection by deception is a form of police procedure to be directed and used sparingly and with circumspection..


When a Court permits a tape recording to be played over it is acting on real evidence if it treats the intonation of the words to be relevant and genuine. The fact that tape recorded conversation can be altered is also borne in mind by the Court while admitting it in evidence. In the present case the recording of the conversation between Dr. Motwani and the Appellant cannot be said to be illegal because Dr. Motwani allowed the tape recording instrument to be attached to his instrument. In fact, Dr. Motwani permitted the Police Officers to hear the conversation. If the conversation were relayed on a microphone or an amplifier from the telephone and the police officers heard the same they would be able to give direct evidence of what they heard. Here the police officers gave direct evidence of what they saw and what they did and what they recorded as a result of voluntary permission granted by Dr. Motwani. The tape recorded conversation is contemporaneous relevant evidence and therefore it is admissible. It is not tainted by coercion or unfairness. There is no reason to exclude this evidence.


It was said that the admissibility of the tape recorded evidence offended Articles 20(3) and 21 of the Constitution. The submission was that the manner of acquiring the tape recorded conversation was not procedure established by law and the appellant was incriminated. The appellant's conversation was voluntary. There was no compulsion. The attaching of the tape recording instrument was unknown to the appellant. That fact does not render the evidence of conversation inadmissible. (vide R.M Malkani (Supra))

The appellant's conversation was not extracted under duress or compulsion. If the conversation was recorded on the tape it was a mechanical contrivance to play the role of an eavesdropper. In R. v. Leatham - it was said "It matters not how you get it if you steal it even, it would be admissible in evidence".. As long as it is not tainted by an inadmissible confession of guilt evidence even if it is illegally obtained is admissible. There is no scope for holding that the appellant was made to incriminate himself. At the time of the conversation there was no case against the appellant. He was not compelled to speak or confess. Article 21 was invoked by submitting that the privacy of the appellant's conversation was invaded.. Article 21 contemplates procedure established by law with regard to deprivation of life or personal liberty. The telephonic conversation of an innocent citizen will be protected by Courts against wrongful or high handed' interference by tapping the conversation. The protection is not for the guilty citizen against the efforts of the police to vindicate the law and prevent corruption of public servants. It must not be understood that the Courts will tolerate safeguards for the protection of the citizen to be imperiled by permitting the police to proceed by unlawful or irregular methods. In the present case there is no unlawful or irregular method in obtaining the tape recording of the conversation.



Supreme Court of India

Ram Singh & Ors vs Col. Ram Singh on 7 August, 1985

In Yusufalli Esmail Nagree v. State of Maharashtra [1967] 3 S.C.R. 720, this Court, speaking through Bachawat, J. Observed thus:


"If a statement 'is relevant, an accurate tape record of the statement is also relevant and admissible. The time and place and accuracy of the recording must be proved by a competent witness and the voices must be properly identified. One of the features of magnetic tape RECORDING is the ability to erase and re-use the recording medium. Because of this facility of erasure and re-use, the evidence must be received with caution. The court must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the record has not been tampered with.

The tape was not sealed and was kept in the custody of Mahajan The absence of sealing naturally gives rise to the argument that the recording medium might have been tempered with before it was replayed."

In the case of N. Sri Rama Reddy, etc. v. V.V.Giri [1971] 1 S.C.R. 399, the following observations were made:

"Having due regard to the decisions referred to above, it is clear that a previous statement, made by a person and recorded on tape, can be used not only to corroborate the evidence given by the witness in Court but also to contradict the evidence given before the Court, as well as to test the veracity of the witness and also to impeach his impartiality.

In R.M. Malkani v. State of Maharashtra [1973] 2 S.C.R. 417, this Court laid down the essential conditions which, if fulfilled or satisfied, would make a tape-recorded statement admissible otherwise not; and observed thus:

"Tape recorded conversation is admissible provided first the conversation is relevant to the matters in issue secondly, there is identification of the voice; and, thirdly, the accuracy of the tape recorded conversation is proved by eliminating the possibility of erasing the tape record.

(Emphasis supplied)

In Ziyauddin Burhanuddin Bukhari v. Brijmohan Ramdass Mehra & Ors., [1975 1 Supp. S.C.R. 281, Beg,J. (as he then was, made the following observations:

"We think that the High Court was quite right in holding that the tape records of speeches were "documents" , as defined by Section 3 of the Evidence Act, which stood on no different footing than photographs, and that they were admissible in evidence on satisfying the following conditions:

(a) The voice of the person alleged to be speaking must be duly identified by the maker of the record or by others who knew it.

(b) Accuracy of what was actually recorded had to be proved by the maker of the record and satisfactory evidence, DIRECT or circumstances, had to be there 80 as to rule out possibilities of tampering with the record.

(c) The subject matter recorded had to be shown to be relevant according to rules of relevancy found in the evidence Act."

Thus, so far as this Court is concerned the conditions for admissibility of a tape recorded statement may be stated as follows:

(1) The voice of the speaker must be duly identified by the maker of the record or by others who recognise his voice. In other words, it manifestly follows as a logical corollary that the first condition for the admissibility of such a statement is to identify the voice of the speaker. Where the voice has been denied by the maker it will require very strict proof to determine whether or not it was really the voice of the speaker.

(2) The accuracy of the tape recorded statement has to be proved by the maker of the record by satisfactory evidence - direct or circumstantial. (3) Every possibility of tampering with or erasure of a part of a tape recorded statement must be ruled out otherwise it may render the said statement out of context and, therefore, inadmissible.

(4) The statement must be relevant according to the rules of Evidence Act.

(5) The recorded cassette must be carefully sealed and kept in safe or official custody. (6) The voice of the speaker should be clearly audible and not lost or distorted by other sounds or disturbances.

The view taken by this Court on the question of admissibility of tape recorded evidence finds full support from both English and American authorities. In R. v. Maqsud Ali, [1965] All. E.R. 464., Marshall, J., observed thus:- "We can see no difference in principle between a tape recording and a photograph. In saying this we must not be taken as saying that such recordings are admissible whatever the circumstances, but it does appear to this court wrong to deny to the law of evidence advantages to be gained by new techniques and new devices, provided the accuracy of the recording can be proved and the voices recorded properly identified; provided also that the evidence is relevant and otherwise admissible, we are satisfied that a tape recording is admissible in evidence. Such evidence should always be regarded with some caution and assessed in the light of all the circumstances of each case. There can be no question of laying down any exhaustive set of rules by which the admissibility of such evidence should be judged.

To the same effect is another decision of the same court in R. v. Robson [1972] 2 All E.R. 699, where Shaw, J., delivering a judgment of the Central Criminal Court observed thus:


"The determination of the question is rendered more difficult because tape recordings may be altered by the transposition, excision and insertion of words or phrases and such alterations may escape detection and even elude it on examination by technical experts.

During the course of the evidence and argument on the issue of admissibility the recordings were played back many times. In the end I came to the view that in continuity, clarity and coherence their quality was, at the least, adequate to enable the jury to form a fair and reliable assessment of the conversation which were recorded and that with an appropriate warning the jury would not be led into and interpretation unjustifiably adverse to the accused. Accordingly, so far as the matter was one of discretion, I was satisfied that / injustice could arise from admitting the tapes in evidence and that they ought not to be excluded on this basis."

In Amercian Jurisprudence 2nd (Vo1.29) the learned author on a conspectus of the authorities referred to in the footnote in regard to the admissibility of tape recorded statements at page 494 observes thus:

"The cases are in general agreement as to what constitutes a proper foundation for the admission of a sound recording, and indicate a reasonably strict adherence to the rules prescribed for testing the admissibility of recordings, which have been outlined as follows:

(1) a showing that the recording device was capable of taking testimony;

(2) a showing that the operator of the device was competent;

(3) establishment of the authenticity and correctness of the recording;

(4) a showing that changes, additions, or deletions have not been made;

(5) a showing of the manner of the preservation of the recording;

(6) identification of the speakers; and (7) a showing that the testimony elicited was voluntarily made without any kind of inducement.

..However, the recording may be rejected if it is so inaudible and indistinct that the jury must -

(Emphasis ours) We would, therefore, have to test the admissibility of the tape recorded statements of the respondent, given in the High Court as also in this Court, in the light of the various tests and safeguards laid down by this Court and other Courts, referred to above. We shall give a detailed survey of the nature and the character of the statement of the respondent in a separate paragraph which we intend to devote to this part of the case, which is really an important feature and, if accepted, may clinch the issue and the controversy between the parties on the point of corrupt practice.



Supreme Court of India

Ashok Dulichand vs Madahavlal Dube & Another on 5 August, 1975

According to clause (a) of section 65 of the Indian Evidence Act, secondary evidence may be given of the existence, condition or contents of a document when the original is shown or appears to be in the possession or power of the person against whom the document is sought to be proved, or of any person out of reach of, or not subject to, the process of the Court, or of any person legally bound to produce it, and when, after the notice mentioned in section 66, such person does not produce it. Clauses (b) to (g) of section 65 specify some other contingencies wherein secondary evidence relating to a document may be given, but we are not concerned with those clauses as it is the common case of the parties that the present case is not covered by those clauses. In order to bring his case within the purview of clause (a) of section 65, the appellant filed applications on July 4, 1973, before respondent No. 1 was examined as a witness, praying that the said respondent be ordered to produce the original manuscript of which, according to the appellant, he had filed photostat copy. Prayer was also made by the appellant that in case respondent No. 1 denied that the said manuscript had been written by him, the photostat copy might be got examined from a handwriting expert. The appellant also filed affidavit in support of his applications. It was, however, nowhere stated in the affidavit that the original document of which the photostat copy had been filed by the appellant was in the possession of respondent No. 1. There was also no other material on the record to indicate that the original document was in the possession of respondent No. 1. The appellant further failed to explain as to what were the circumstances under which the photostat copy was prepared and who was in possession of the original document at the time its photograph was taken. Respondent No. 1 in his affidavit denied being in possession of or having anything to do with such a document. The photostat copy appeared to the High Court to be not above suspicion. In view of all the circumstances, the High Court came to the conclusion that no foundation had been laid by the appellant for leading secondary evidence in the shape of the photostat copy. We find no infirmity in the above order of the High Court as might justify interference by this Court.



In a judgment reported as M. Ehtisham Ali for himself and in place of M. Sakhawat Ali, since deceased v. Jamna Prasad, for short, ‘Evidence Act’ since deceased & Ors.5, the appellants-plaintiffs filed a suit on the basis of a sale deed. During trial, the stand of the plaintiffs was that the original sale deed was lost but since it was registered, secondary evidence by way of a certified copy prepared by the office of the Registrar was produced. It was not disputed that the copy produced was not the correct copy of the registered document. The suit was dismissed for the reason that the plaintiffs have not succeeded in satisfactorily establishing the loss of the original sale deed. The Court held as under:


“It is, no doubt, not very likely that such a deed would be lost, but in ordinary cases, if the witness in whose custody the deed should be deposed to its loss, unless there is some motive suggested for his being untruthful, his evidence would be accepted as sufficient to let in secondary evidence of the deed. And if in addition he was not cross-examined, this result would follow all the more. There is no doubt that the deed was executed, for it was registered, and registered in a regular way, and it is the duty of the registrar, before registering, to examine the grantor, or some one whom he is satisfied is the proper representative of the grantor, before he allows the deed to be registered.”


Aher Rama Gova & Ors. v. State of Gujarat, the secondary evidence of dying declaration recorded by a Magistrate was produced in evidence. This Court found that though the original dying declaration was not produced but from the evidence, it is clear that the original was lost and was not available. The Magistrate himself deposed on oath that he had given the original dying declaration to the Head Constable whereas the Head Constable deposed that he had made a copy of the same and given it back to the Magistrate. Therefore, the Court found that the original dying declaration was not available and the prosecution was entitled to give secondary evidence which consisted of the statement of the Magistrate as also of the Head Constable who had made a copy from the original. Thus, the secondary evidence of dying declaration was admitted in evidence, though no application to lead secondary evidence was filed.


This Court in Bipin Shantilal Panchal v. State of Gujarat & Anr., deprecated the practice in respect of the admissibility of any material evidence, where the Court does not proceed further without passing order on such objection. It was held that all objections raised shall be decided by the Court at the final stage. The Court held as under:


“14. When so recast, the practice which can be a better substitute is this: Whenever an objection is raised during evidence-taking stage regarding the admissibility of any material or item of oral evidence the trial court can make a note of such objection and mark the objected document tentatively as an exhibit in the case (or record the objected part of the oral evidence) subject to such objections to be decided at the last stage in the final judgment. If the court finds at the final stage that the objection so raised is sustainable the Judge or Magistrate can keep such evidence excluded from consideration. In our view there is no illegality in adopting such a course. (However, we make it clear that if the objection relates to deficiency of stamp duty of a document the court has to decide the objection before proceeding further. For all other objections the procedure suggested above can be followed).

15. The above procedure, if followed, will have two advantages. First is that the time in the trial court, during evidence-taking stage, would not be wasted on account of raising such objections and the court can continue to examine the witnesses. The witnesses need not wait for long hours, if not days. Second is that the superior court, when the same objection is recanvassed and reconsidered in appeal or revision against the final judgment of the trial court, can determine the correctness of the view taken by the trial court regarding that objection, without bothering to remit the case to the trial court again for fresh disposal."


This Court in Z. Engineers Construction Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. v. Bipin Bihari Behera & Ors., held that even in respect of deficiency of stamp duty in the State of Orissa where a question arose as to whether possession had been delivered in pursuance of a registered power of attorney, the same was a question of fact which was required to be decided after the evidence was led.


Supreme Court of India

Dhanpat vs Sheo Ram (Deceased) Through His ... on 19 March, 2020

There is no requirement that an application is required to be filed in terms of Section 65(c) of the Evidence Act before the secondary evidence is led. A party to the lis may choose to file an application which is required to be considered by the trial court but if any party to the suit has laid foundation of leading of secondary evidence, either in the plaint or in evidence, the secondary evidence cannot be ousted for consideration only because an application for permission to lead secondary evidence was not filed.


In the matter of Rakesh Mohindra vs. Anita Beri and Ors. Apex Court has observed as under:-

“15. The preconditions for leading secondary evidence are that such original documents could not be produced by the party relying upon such documents in spite of best efforts, unable to produce the same which is beyond their control. The party which sought to produce secondary evidence must establish for the non-production of primary evidence. Unless, it is established that the original documents is lost or destroyed or is being deliberately withheld by the party in respect of that document sought to be used, secondary evidence in respect of that document cannot accepted."





Supreme Court of India

Jagmail Singh vs Karamjit Singh on 13 May, 2020

A perusal of Section 65 makes it clear that secondary evidence may be given with regard to existence, condition or the contents of a document when the original is shown or appears to be in possession or power against whom the document is sought to be produced, or of any person out of reach of, or not subject to, the process of the Court, or of any person legally bound to produce it, and when, after notice mentioned in Section 66 such person does not produce it. It is a settled position of law that for secondary evidence to be admitted foundational evidence has to be given being the reasons as to why the original Evidence has not been furnished. It is trite that under the Evidence Act, 1872 facts have to be established by primary evidence and secondary evidence is only an exception to the rule for which foundational facts have to be established to account for the existence of the primary evidence. In the case of H. Siddiqui (dead) by LRs Vs. A. Ramalingam this Court reiterated that where original documents are not produced without a plausible reason and factual foundation for laying secondary evidence is not established it is not permissible for the court to allow a party to adduce secondary evidence.



In Madan Mohan Singh & Ors. v. Rajni Kant & Anr., AIR 2010 SC 2933, this Court examined a case as a court of fifth instance.


The statutory authorities and the High Court has determined the issues taking into consideration a large number of documents including electoral rolls and school leaving certificates and held that such documents were admissible in evidence. This Court examined the documents and contents thereof and reached the conclusion that if the contents of the said documents are examined making mere arithmetical exercise it would lead not only to improbabilities and impossibilities but also to absurdity. This Court examined the probative value of the contents of the said documents and came to the conclusion that Smt. Shakuntala, second wife of the father of the contesting parties therein had given birth to the first child two years prior to her own birth. The second child was born when she was 6 years of age; the third child was born at the age of 8 years; the fourth child was born at the age of 10 years; and she gave birth to the fifth child when she was 12 years of age. Therefore, it is the duty of the court to examine whether documents produced in the Court or contents thereof have any probative value.


Supreme Court of India

H. Siddiqui (D) By Lr vs A. Ramalingam on 4 March, 2011

Provisions of Section 65 of the Act 1872 provide for permitting the parties to adduce secondary evidence. However, such a course is subject to a large number of limitations. In a case where original documents are not produced at any time, nor, any factual foundation has been led for giving secondary evidence, it is not permissible for the court to allow a party to adduce secondary evidence. Thus, secondary evidence relating to the contents of a document is inadmissible, until the non production of the original is accounted for, so as to bring it within one or other of the cases provided for in the section. The secondary evidence must be authenticated by foundational evidence that the alleged copy is in fact a true copy of the original. Mere admission of a document in evidence does not amount to its proof. Therefore, the documentary evidence is required to be proved in accordance with law. The court has an obligation to decide the question of admissibility of a document in secondary evidence before making endorsement thereon. Vide: The Roman Catholilc Mission & Anr. v. The State of Madras & Anr., AIR 1966 SC 1457

The Trial Court decreed the suit observing that as the parties had deposed that the original power of attorney was not in their possession, question of laying any further factual foundation could not arise. Further, the Trial Court took note of the fact that the respondent herein has specifically denied execution of power of attorney authorising his brother R. Viswanathan to alienate the suit property, but brushed aside the same observing that it was not necessary for the appellant/plaintiff to call upon the defendant to produce the original power of attorney on the ground that the photocopy of the power of attorney was shown to the respondent herein in his cross-examination and he had admitted his signature. Thus, it could be inferred that it is the copy of the power of attorney executed by the respondent in favour of his brother (R. Viswanathan, second defendant in the suit) and therefore, there was a specific admission by the respondent having executed such document. So it was evident that the respondent had authorised the second defendant to alienate the suit property.

In our humble opinion, the Trial Court could not proceed in such an unwarranted manner for the reason that the respondent had merely admitted his signature on the photocopy of the power of attorney and did not admit the contents thereof. More so, the court should have borne in mind that admissibility of a document or contents thereof may not necessary lead to drawing any inference unless the contents thereof have some probative value.


In State of Bihar and Ors. v. Sri Radha Krishna Singh & Ors., AIR 1983 SC 684, this Court considered the issue in respect of admissibility of documents or contents thereof and held as under:


"Admissibility of a document is one thing and its probative value quite another - these two aspects cannot be combined. A document may be admissible and yet may not carry any conviction and the weight of its probative value may be nil."


Supreme Court of India

U.Sree vs U.Srinivas on 11 December, 2012

Before we dwell upon the tenability of the conclusions of desertion and mental cruelty, we think it condign to deal with the submission whether the photostat copy of the letter alleged to have been written by the wife to her father could have been admitted as secondary evidence. As the evidence on record would show, the said letter was summoned from the father who had disputed its existence. The learned Family Court Judge as well as the High Court has opined that when the person is in possession of the document but has not produced the same, it can be regarded as a proper foundation to lead secondary evidence. In this context, we may usefully refer to the decision in Ashok Dulichand v. Madahavlal Dube wherein it has been held that according to clause (a) of Section 65 of the Indian Evidence Act, secondary evidence may be given of the existence, condition or contents of a document when the original is shown or appears to be in the possession or power of the person against whom the document is sought to be proved, or of any person out of reach of, or not subject to, the process of the court, or of any person legally bound to produce it, and when, after the notice mentioned in Section 66, such person does not produce it. Thereafter, the Court addressed to the facts of the case and opined thus: -


“In order to bring his case within the purview of clause (a) of Section 65, the appellant filed applications on July 4, 1973, before Respondent 1 was examined as a witness, praying that the said respondent be ordered to produce the original manuscript of which, according to the appellant, he had filed photostat copy. Prayer was also made by the appellant that in case Respondent 1 denied that the said manuscript had been written by him, the photostat copy might be got examined from a handwriting expert. The appellant also filed affidavit in support of his applications. It was, however, nowhere stated in the affidavit that the original document of which the photostat copy had been filed by the appellant was in the possession of Respondent 1. There was also no other material on the record to indicate that the original document was in the possession of Respondent 1. The appellant further failed to explain as to what were the circumstances under which the photostat copy was prepared and who was in possession of the original document at the time its photograph was taken. Respondent 1 in his affidavit denied being in possession of or having anything to do with such a document.” Be it noted, in this backdrop, the High Court had recorded a conclusion that no foundation had been laid by the appellant for leading secondary evidence in the shape of the photostat copy and this Court did not perceive any error in the said analysis.

In J. Yashoda v. K. Shobha Rani, after analyzing the language employed in Sections 63 and 65 (a), a two-Judge Bench held as follows:-


“Section 65, however permits secondary evidence to be given of the existence, condition or contents of documents under the circumstances mentioned. The conditions laid down in the said section must be fulfilled before secondary evidence can be admitted. Secondary evidence of the contents of a document cannot be admitted without non- production of the original being first accounted for in such a manner as to bring it within one or other of the cases provided for in the section.”


In M. Chandra v. M. Thangamuthu and Other, It has been held as follows:-


”It is true that a party who wishes to rely upon the contents of a document must adduce primary evidence of the contents, and only in the exceptional cases will secondary evidence be admissible. However, if secondary evidence is admissible, it may be adduced in any form in which it may be available, whether by production of a copy, duplicate copy of a copy, by oral evidence of the contents or in another form. The secondary evidence must be authenticated by foundational evidence that the alleged copy is in fact a true copy of the original. It should be emphasised that the exceptions to the rule requiring primary evidence are designed to provide relief in a case where a party is genuinely unable to produce the original through no fault of that party.”


Recently, in H. Siddiqui (Dead) by Lrs. v. A. Ramalingam, while dealing with Section 65 of the Evidence Act, this Court opined though the said provision permits the parties to adduce secondary evidence, yet such a course is subject to a large number of limitations. In a case where the original documents are not produced at any time, nor has any factual foundation been laid for giving secondary evidence, it is not permissible for the court to allow a party to adduce secondary evidence. Thus, secondary evidence relating to the contents of a document is inadmissible, until the non-production of the original is accounted for, so as to bring it within one or other of the cases provided for in the section. The secondary evidence must be authenticated by foundational evidence that the alleged copy is in fact a true copy of the original. It has been further held that mere admission of a document in evidence does not amount to its proof. Therefore, it is the obligation of the Court to decide the question of admissibility of a document in secondary evidence before making endorsement thereon. (H. Siddiqui (supra) relied on Roman Catholic v. State of Madras judgment)


In the case at hand, the learned Family Judge has really not discussed anything relating to foundational evidence. The High Court has only mentioned that when the letter was summoned and there was a denial, the secondary evidence is admissible. In our considered opinion, such a view is neither legally sound nor in consonance with the pronouncements of this Court and, accordingly, we have no hesitation in dislodging the finding on that score.


Supreme Court of India

Malay Kumar Ganguly vs Sukumar Mukherjee & Ors on 7 August, 2009

ADMISSIBILITY OF EXHIBITS 4, 5 AND 6 Kunal, before us, contended that the High Court committed a serious error in not placing reliance upon medical opinions i.e. Exts. 4, 5 and 6 on the premise that no objection in that behalf was raised at any point of time.


Kunal would argue that this Court having given him permission to examine the expert witnesses on Video Conferencing and he having deposed in terms thereof, Respondents could have asked for their cross-examination at any point of time and not having done so, it does not lie in their mouth to contend that the opinions of the said experts who are themselves authors on TEN and having done research on the disease TEN, are not admissible. FOR THE PURPOSES OF CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS Kunal, however, would contend that the aforementioned documents were exhibited without any demur whatsoever. The respondents, furthermore, did not make any prayer to cross-examine the said witnesses.


It is true that ordinarily if a party to an action does not object to a document being taken on record and the same is marked as an exhibit, he is estopped and precluded from questioning the admissibility thereof at a later stage. It is, however, trite that a document becomes inadmissible in evidence unless author thereof is examined; the contents thereof cannot be held to have been proved unless he is examined and subjected to cross- examination in a court of law.


The document which is otherwise inadmissible cannot be taken in evidence only because no objection to the admissibility thereof was taken. In a criminal case, subject of course, to the shifting of burden depending upon the statutes and/or the decisions of the superiors courts, the right of an accused is protected in terms of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The procedure laid in that behalf, therefore, must be strictly complied with. Exhibits 4, 5 and 6, in our opinion, are not admissible in evidence in the criminal trial.


Delhi High Court

Shir Prem Chandra Jain (Deceased) ... vs Shri Sri Ram (Deceased ... on 12 October, 2009

. Section 61 of the Evidence Act provides for proof of documents either by primary or by secondary evidence. Section 64 provides that documents must be proved by primary evidence, except in cases "hereinafter mentioned" i.e. in Section 65 & Section 65 A and Section 65 B. Section 65 permits secondary evidence to be led in the contingencies mentioned therein. Thus a litigant without seeking any permission from the court if satisfies the ingredients of Section 65 of the Evidence Act i.e. of the existence of the contingency or situation when secondary evidence is permitted to be led is entitled to lead such evidence. Such evidence will have to be two fold. Firstly, as to the existence of the contingency or situation in which secondary evidence is permissible, viz that the original document is in possession or power of the person against whom it is sought to be proved etc. or that the existence, condition or contents of original have been proved to be admitted by person against whom it is sought to be proved or that the original has been lost or destroyed or when original is not moveable etc. i.e. of the various situations mentioned in Clause (a) to (g) of Section 65. Secondly, such evidence will have to be in proof of document as also prescribed in Section 65 r/w Section 63.

The court, on an application seeking permission to lead secondary evidence, even if setting out reasons as contained in either of the clauses of Section 65, cannot take a decision on the correctness of the reasons. The application thus serves no purpose except delaying the proceedings. It is however often found that the courts allow or disallow the applications, without giving an opportunity to the parties for laying a foundation for reception or rejection of secondary evidence. Such procedure is impermissible in law. Factual controversies cannot be adjudicated on applications. That is however not to be understood as allowing a mini-trial on this aspect. The party seeking to prove document by secondary evidence is to lead evidence of the existence of circumstances/situations in which secondary evidence is permissible, during leading its evidence, whether by way of examination of witnesses or cross examination of opponents witnesses, in the suit/other proceeding itself. It will be decided at the stage of disposal of suit only, whether case for leading secondary evidence has been made out or not and if so, whether document stands proved by secondary evidence.

This court in Laiqan Begum Vs. Abdul Hamid MANU/DE/0203/1979 held that "not traceable" or "lost", both enable the invocation of secondary evidence under Section 65 of the Act. I am also of the opinion that for invocation of Section 65, it is not necessary to take a stand that the document is lost, so as never to be found. It is sufficient to prove that the document is not available at the relevant time and its whereabouts are unknown then.


Punjab-Haryana High Court

P.K. Gupta vs Varinder Sharma on 15 March, 2002

A perusal of clause (c) of Section 65 of the Act would show that secondary evidence of existence, condition or contents of a document can also be adduced when the party offering evidence of its contents cannot produce the original in reasonable time. But such a delay in production of the document should not have arisen from the fault or neglect of the party who wish to adduce secondary evidence of the document. To succeed in getting permission to adduce secondary evidence it must be shown that the document was in existence which was capable of being proved by secondary evidence and secondly proper foundation must be laid to establish the right to adduce secondary evidence. This view has been taken by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Roman Catholic Mission v. Stale of Madras, A.I.R. 1966 S.C. 1457. Another well-known principle with regard to proof of facts is that best evidence must come before the Court because the best evidence which is, of course, the original document would furnish an opportunity to the Court to examine various surrounding facts attached with the original alone like the voraciousness of the signatures of the parties, the age of the document and other host of factors depending on the facts of each case. It is in the absence of the best evidence that the secondary evidence is allowed to be adduced because the object of judicial investigation by Court is to fathom the truth. Therefore, the law although insists upon production of the best evidence i.e. the original document yet it permit with proper safeguards the production of the secondary evidence of the original if certain conditions are satisfied, namely, the existence of the document which might have been lost or destroyed or the party in whose possession the original is shown or appears to be have refused to produce it before the Court despite notice or its existence, condition or contents have been proved to be admitted in writing so on and so forth. The rule regarding secondary evidence is not an open rule allowing any piece of photostat copies or an oral account of the original and the likewise to be tendered as secondary evidence.

In the present case, no doubt the existence of consultancy agreement dated 13.4.1996 has not been proved by the plaintiff-petitioner by any cogent evidence. It has also not been shown that the document was supposed to be in possession of the defendant-respondent and he was liable to produce the same after notice. It has also not been shown that the document is admitted.


On. the other hand, it is true that the Civil Judge decided the vital question on which the whole suit is dependent in a summary manner without permitting the parties to adduce evidence to how the existence, condition or contents of the document. Moreover, the Civil Judge has jumped to a conclusion observing that the plaintiff-petitioner has put forward a false and concocted story regarding the custody of consultancy agreement dated 13.4.1996. Such a conclusion is not warranted unless the plaintiff-petitioner has been afforded an opportunity. There are facts and circumstances in the case which would warrant that the plaintiff-petitioner should have been given an opportunity and conclusion that a false and concocted story has been put forward regarding the custody of the original is unwarranted because the letter rejecting the proposal of loan by the Haryana Financial Corporation is dated 20.6.1996. The stand of the defendant-respondent in the written statement is that the consultancy agreement was executed in May/June which is vague and it does not specify any date. If the agreement was entered in June 1996 it is not possible for the Haryana Financial Corporation to hold a screening committee meeting on 19.6.1996. These are some of the reasons which would warrant that the Civil Judge should have framed an issue and allowed opportunity to the parties to show as to whether the agreement dated 13.4.1996 was in existence or not. The judgment of this Court in the case of Indian Overseas Bank relied upon by the learned counsel for the plaintiff-petitioner should have been followed and opportunity to prove the existence of the document either by producing the Notary Public or the witnesses or by any other mode should have been permitted.

(Comment : the existence of the document and custody of the document could have been proved by adducing evidence as the document was witnessed by a Notary Public and other witnesses. For this proposition, the learned counsel has placed reliance on a judgment of Punjab And Haryana High Court in case of Indian Overseas Bank v. Shayma & Co. and Ors., (1993-1)103 P.L.R. 630.)


The Supreme Court in the case of T. Mohan v. Kannammal and Anr., J.T. 2002(2) S.C. 163 has held that secondary evidence could be received as genuine if the existence of the document is admitted. In that case, a suit for specific performance was filed and the original agreement dated 20.10.1980 between the parties was kept by the vendor. It was proved by leading evidence that the agreement was typed prior to the date of its execution. It was signed by the parties and attesting witnesses on 20.10.1980. It was also proved that the original has retained by the vendor. In these circumstances, a typed duplicate copy of the agreement was accepted as secondary evidence of the original especially when the signature of the vendor on the duplicate copy which was exhibited was admitted by his son. On this aspect, Their Lordships observed as under:


"As noticed earlier, the High Court found as a fact that the original agreement was kept with the vendor who did not produce the same before the Court. The said finding was based on the evidence of the witnesses PWs 1 and 4, who were examined on behalf of the plaintiff. From the evidence of these witnesses, it is clear that the agreement was typed out on the 13th October, 1986, signed by the parties and the attesting witnesses on 20th October, 1980. It was agreed then that the original document would be retained by the vendor. The High Court has also discussed the circumstances which make this aspect of the case probable and plausible. There is neither any illegality in appreciation of the evidence nor are the findings vitiated on any score. It is not in dispute that in the absence of the original document, the copy of the agreement which was typed as a duplicate of the document, could be received as secondary evidence in the case. The son of the vendor (deceased) DW 2 has admitted the signatures on the document exhibit P1 to be those of his father. In such circumstances, no exception could be taken to acceptance of the document as genuine and its contents as true. On the evidence on record, sufficient foundation for accepting the document by way of secondary evidence in terms of Section 65 of the Evidence Act has been laid."


In the present case, no evidence has been led to show either the existence of the document or any opportunity to lead any evidence has been afforded. It appears to me that there is a possibility either way to decide the contentious issue by the Civil Judge only after allowing opportunity to both the parties. Such an application should not have been decided in a summary manner adopted by the Civil Judge.


How a Signature and Handwriting are to be proved :

The signature and handwriting may be proved by any one of the following methods:


1. By calling the person who signed and wrote the document;


2. By calling person who was present when the document was written and signed;


3. By means of handwriting expert; (S. 45)


4. By proof of an admission of the person who is alleged to have signed and written the document;


5. By means of comparison of disputed signature and handwriting with some admitted signature or writing by the court; (S. 73)


6. By circumstantial evidence;


7. By evidence of a person acquainted with the handwriting of the writer. (S. 47 )


8. By statement of deceased professional scribe made in ordinary course of business , that signature and document is that of a particular person . (S. 32 (2) )


Execution of document : Meaning

The execution of document means the last act for completion of series of act requiring completion of document. It does not mean merely signing it. It should be accompanied by the intention to give effect to the document in question Mere proof of registration is not the proof of due execution.




Supreme Court of India

V. Kalyanaswamy (D) By Lrs. vs L. Bakthavatsalam (D) Thr. Lrs. . on 17 July, 2020

The questions, therefore, would then arise as follows:


a. Is it still the requirement of law when both the attesting witnesses are dead that:

under Section 69 of the Evidence Act, the attestation as required under Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act, viz., attestation by the two witnesses has to be proved? Or Is it sufficient to prove that the attestation of at least one attesting witness is in his handwriting, which is the literal command of Section 69 of the Evidence Act apart from proving the latter limb?


b. The further question which would arise is whether exhibit B7, which is the copy of the evidence of the one of the attesting witnesses in the Will, in the proceedings under Section 145 of the CrPC sufficiently fulfils the requirements under Section 33 of the Evidence Act?


Section 68 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Evidence Act’, for short) deals with proof of execution of a document required by the law to be attested. A perusal of the same makes it clear that in the case of a Will, being a document which is required to be attested by Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act, if there is an attesting witness alive and subject to the process of the court and capable of giving evidence, then, the Will can be proved only if one of the attesting witness is called for proving its execution.


“69. Proof where no attesting witness found.—If no such attesting witness can be found, or if the document purports to have been executed in the United Kingdom, it must be proved that the attestation of one attesting witness at least is in his handwriting, and that the signature of the person executing the document is in the handwriting of that person.”


Though the expression used is ‘if no such attesting witness can be found, inter alia, it bears the following interpretation’. The word ‘such’ before ‘attesting witness’ is intended to refer to the attesting witness mentioned in Section 68 of the Evidence Act. As far as the expression ‘found’ is concerned, it would cover a wide variety of circumstances. It would cover a case of an incapacity to tender evidence on account of any physical illness. It would certainly embrace a situation where the attesting witnesses are dead. Should the attesting witness be insane, the word “found” is capable of comprehending such a situation as one where the attesting witness, though physically available, is incapable of performing the task of proving the attestation under Section 68 the Evidence Act, and therefore, it becomes a situation where he is not found.


In Babu Singh and others v. Ram Sahai alias Ram Singh32, the Court laid down as follows in regard to Section 69:


“17. It would apply, inter alia, in a case where the attesting witness is either dead or out of the jurisdiction of the court or kept out of the way by the adverse party or cannot be traced despite diligent search. Only in that event, the will may be proved in the manner indicated in Section 69 i.e. by examining witnesses who were able to prove the handwriting of the testator or executant. The burden of proof then may be shifted to others. Whereas, however, a will ordinarily must be proved keeping in view the provisions of Section 63 of the Succession Act and Section 68 of the Act, in the event the ingredients thereof, as noticed hereinbefore, are brought on record, strict proof of execution and attestation stands relaxed. However, signature and handwriting, as contemplated in Section 69, must be proved.”


Dealing with Section 69 of the Evidence Act, we notice the judgment of this Court in K. Laxmanan v. Thekkayil Padmini and others33:


“32. Since both the attesting witnesses have not been examined, in terms of Section 69 of the Act it was incumbent upon the appellant to prove that the attestation of at least one attesting witness is in his handwriting and that the signature of the person executing the document is in the handwriting of that person. DW 3, who was an identifying witness also in Ext. B-2, specifically stated that he had not signed as an identifying witness in respect of Ext. B-2 and also that he did not know about the signature in Ext. B-2. Besides, considering the nature of the document which was a deed of gift and even assuming that no pleading is filed specifically denying the execution of the document by the executant and, therefore, there was no mandatory requirement and obligation to get an attesting witness examined but still the fact remains that the plaintiff never admitted the execution of the gift deed and, therefore, the same was required to be proved like any other document.”




(The next aspect considered by the Court was the impact and relevancy of Section 33 of the Evidence Act, including the interpretation of the phrase “representative in interest”. It held that the phrase should be understood liberally and not be confined to cases of privity of estate and succession of title. The Court, in the same vein under section 33 of the Evidence Act, accepted the Affidavit of Evidence of one of the attesting witnesses, tendered in a previous legal proceeding under section 145 of CrPC before the Magistrate who was certainly authorised by law to take evidence as relevant evidence for proving the truth of the facts contained therein. The Supreme Court thus, cleared the air around Section 68 of the Evidence Act; in the case of a Will covered under section 63 of the Succession Act, at least one attesting witness must not only be examined to prove attestation by him but he must also prove the attestation by the other attesting witness. The fate of the transferee or a legatee, under a will required to be attested by law, is not placed at the mercy of the attesting witnesses. The law enables proof to be effected despite denial of the execution of the Will by the attesting witness. In cases that fall within the realm of Section 69 of the Evidence Act, the Section 68 requirement of proving attestation by both the witnesses by examining one witness, has been dispensed with. Instead, it simply needs to be proven that the attestation of at least one attesting witness was in his/her handwriting.)


The word ‘representative in interest’, in other words, is to be understood liberally and not confined to cases where there is privity of estate and succession of title. He is be such representative of the party in the later proceedings. Answering the two tests, which have been evolved in the facts of this case, the respondents cannot contend that the interest of the appellants was inconsistent with the interest of R. Krishnammal and in particular the executor of the Will. It was certainly not antagonistic to their interest. The Will was indeed set-up by R. Krishnammal and the executor. Therefore, it can be safely concluded that the interest of both persons comprised of A Party, which was the protection of the possession, was also in the interest of the appellants. It may be true that the appellants do not derive their title under R. Krishnammal. But the requirements under Section 33 of the Evidence Act are not to be confused with the ingredients to be fulfilled even in a case under Section 11 of the CPC. It cannot be contended that the interest of the appellants lay in answering the question posed in Section 145 of the CrPC proceedings against R. Krishnammal and the Executor in favour of the respondents, who were parties before the Magistrate. The case of the Will was explicitly set up as also the declaration dated 10.5.1955 and further developments. Therefore, the contention based on the third proviso also does not appeal to us. Also not only was there opportunity to cross examine to the B party, it was availed of. The applicability of Section 33 of the Evidence Act also does not depend upon the nature of the decision which is rendered in the earlier proceeding. We would think that on this basis, as Exhibit-B7 and even B13 (deposition by the Executor) indeed is evidence which was tendered in the previous proceeding before the Magistrate who was certainly authorised by law to take evidence, which is relevant for proving the truth of the facts contained therein under Section 33.


The further question is, as posed by us, whether despite the fact that both the attesting witnesses were dead, the matter to be proved under Section 69 of the Evidence Act, is the same as a matter to be proved under Section 68 of the Evidence Act. In other words, under Section 68 of the Evidence Act, in the case of a Will covered under Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act, it is indispensable that at least one attesting witness must not only be examined to prove attestation . by him but he must also prove the attestation by the other attesting witness ]. This Court has taken the view that while it is open to prove the will and the attestation by examining a single attesting witness, it is incumbent upon him to prove attestation not only by himself but also attestation by the other attesting witness. It is the contention of the respondents that under Section 69 of the Evidence Act, Exhibit-B7 falls short of the requirement of law that attestation of the execution by both the witnesses be proved. After taking us through Exhibit- B7, it was pointed out that it is clear that even in the said deposition, the witness has not deposed about the attestation by the other witness, viz., Dr. C.S. Ramaswamy Iyer. On the other hand, the contention of the appellants and which has found approval with the First Appellate Court, is that Section 69 of the Evidence Act only requires that the attestation of at least one attesting witness in his handwriting be proved. This is, of course apart from proving that the signature of the testator executing the document is in the handwriting of that person.



We are of the view that Section 69 of the Evidence Act manifests a departure from the requirement embodied in Section 68 of the Evidence Act. In the case of a Will, which is required to be executed in the mode provided in Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act, when there is an attesting witness available, the Will is to be proved by examining him. He must not only prove that the attestation was done by him but he must also prove the attestation by the other attesting witness. This is, no doubt, subject to the situation which is contemplated in Section 71 of the Evidence Act which allows other evidence to be adduced in proof of the Will among other documents where the attesting witness denies or does not recollect the execution of the Will or the other document. In other words, the fate of the transferee or a legatee under a document, which is required by law to be attested, is not placed at the mercy of the attesting witness and the law enables proof to be effected of the document despite denial of the execution of the document by the attesting witness.




Reverting back to Section 69 of the Evidence Act, we are of the view that the requirement therein would be if the signature of the person executing the document is proved to be in his handwriting, then attestation of one attesting witness is to be proved to be in his handwriting. In other words, in a case covered under Section 69 of the Evidence Act, the requirement pertinent to Section 68 of the Evidence Act that the attestation by both the witnesses is to be proved by examining at least one attesting witness, is dispensed with. It may be that the proof given by the attesting witness, within the meaning of Section 69 of the Evidence Act, may contain evidence relating to the attestation by the other attesting witness but that is not the same thing as stating it to be the legal requirement under the Section to be that attestation by both the witnesses is to be proved in a case covered by Section 69 of the Evidence Act. In short, in a case covered under Section 69 of the Evidence Act, what is to be proved as far as the attesting witness is concerned, is, that the attestation of one of the attesting witness is in his handwriting. The language of the Section is clear and unambiguous. Section 68 of the Evidence Act, as interpreted by this Court, contemplates attestation of both attesting witnesses to be proved. But that is not the requirement in Section 69 of the Evidence Act.


016. Documentary evidence
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