There are three things which we need to be clear about when discussing Indian Evidence Act. These are:
CONCEPT OF RELEVANCY
We have seen that Section 5 of the act states that evidence of fact in issue and relevant fact can be given in a case. We also know that whether a fact is relevant or not is specified by Section 6-55 of the act. If the fact falls within any of the section from section 6-55, it is a relevant fact. If it does not fall in any of these sections, it is an irrelevant fact. Evidence of an irrelevant fact can never be given in court.
Thus, whenever an evidence is presented before the court, the court has to make sure that such evidence is a relevant fact. If it is an irrelevant fact, the court must discard such evidence from the case. But sometimes, an irrelevant evidence might be admitted in a case by mistake and such a mistake goes undetected by the opposite party as well as the judge. What if this mistake as to irrelevant evidence is discovered later on in the case, maybe at the appellate stage, can the opposite party raise an objection to an irrelevant evidence at the later stage of the suit/trial?
Objection as to irrelevant evidence
Section 5 of Indian Evidence Act uses the words ‘and of no other’ in the end. This means an irrelevant fact cannot be given an evidence under the act. If by mistake such irrelevant evidence has been received as evidence, the objection to it can be taken at any stage of the suit/trial. Thus even at appellate stage objection as to reception of irrelevant evidence can be taken and the court will then exclude such evidence from consideration in deciding the case.
A question of relevancy of evidence is a question of law and cannot be waived by the party. Thus, a party cannot acquiesce in acceptance of irrelevant evidence as well.
CONCEPT OF ADMISSIBILITY
Admissibility refers to the mode of proving a fact. We know that only fact in issue and relevant fact can be given in evidence, but how are these evidences to be presented before the court? Let us take an example.
A is on trial for the murder of B. C says he saw A stab B to death. D says that a friend of his told him that A has killed B by stabbing him.
Now, you ask yourself, you will you believe in this case, C or D? Obviously, you will say you believe C. Why is that? Because C is giving a direct evidence. He is telling what he himself saw. And you are not believing D because D is giving a hearsay evidence which he heard from other sources.
So, both C and D are giving evidence of fact in issue only i.e. whether A killed B or not? But the law will accept C’s evidence and not the evidence of D. This is the concept of admissibility. How a fact in issue or a relevant fact is to be proved, depends on the admissibility of the evidence.
Thus, only evidence which are admissible by the Indian Evidence act can be given to prove a fact in issue or relevant fact. Which evidences are admissible is provided by Section 59 onwards in the act.
For example, Section 60 of the act specifies that oral evidences must be direct and not indirect. Thus, hearsay evidence is not admissible.
Similarly, section 64 of the act provides that content of documents must be proved by primary evidence i.e. the document itself. Secondary evidence can only be given in exceptional cases as laid down in section 65 of the act. However, if a party presents secondary document even though he has the original document with him and the other party does not object to presentation of such secondary document, the party cannot object to at later stage.
This is because admissibility is a question of procedure which is made for the convenience and benefit of party themselves. If the party wishes to waive such benefit, they cannot object to the admissibility at a later stage.
APPRECIATION OF EVIDENCE
The reason why court receives evidence in a case is to decide the matter in issue. Evidences help the court in forming opinion regarding the matter in dispute. We know that a party is required to PROVE its case in order to succeed and get the verdict in its favour. When is a case said to be proved?
We know party can prove its case by giving evidence of fact in issue and relevant fact. But when is a fact proved?
Section 3 of Indian Evidence Act states that a fact is said to be proved when the court believes it to be true. Similarly, a fact is disproved when the court believes it to be false. Thus, in simple terms a fact is proved when the court accepts it as true.
What criteria does court follow to accept a fact as true or not? Indian Evidence act in itself does not specify any criteria which the court is required to follow. It depends at the discretion of judge whether he is satisfied with the evidence or not.
Thus, in short we can say that all evidence presented in the court must be admissible as per the act. Once the evidence is admissible, the court is required to see whether the evidence is relevant under one or the other provision of the act or not. If the evidence is found irrelevant, the court must reject such evidence or exclude it from consideration. And lastly the court forms its opinion on the basis of different evidences present. Here, the court assigns value and weight to each evidence and sees whether the evidence together support the case of the party or not. The court appreciates the evidence and gives its decision.