There are some facts which even though relevant they need not be proved, that is evidence need not be given of such facts usually because either the court knows about it or the opposite side had already admitted them. In the evidence act, these types of facts are dealt in sections 56 to 58 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
According to section 56 of the Indian Evidence Act, all such facts of which the court will take judicial notice need not be proved.
Judicial notice is a rule in the law of evidence which allows certain facts to be introduced in the court as evidence if the truth of such facts are so well known or notorious that it can’t be reasonably doubted.
Justice Isaacs said in Holland v. Jones that whenever a fact is so generally known that every ordinary person can be presumed to know it then the court will notice that fact either simply or after such investigation as would be necessary to eliminate any reasonable doubts on that matter.
It is thus a tool which the judge can accept without having a party to prove it through evidence this allows the court to fast forward the proceedings and letting the judge accept some notorious or well-known facts.
Section 57 lists out 13 facts regarding which the court has to take judicial notice. In those 13 items mentioned in the section items 1 to 3 comes under the topic of law and custom, items 4 to 7 comes under the topic of public administration and items 8 to 13 comes under the head of common knowledge.
It is provided that besides those cases explicitly mentioned in the section, the court has to take judicial notice in matters of public history, literature, science or art, the Court may resort for its aid to appropriate books or documents of reference.
It is also provided in this section that if the court is asked by any person to take judicial notice on any matter then the court can refuse to do so unless the books or documents or other things as the court may find it necessary to examine before taking the judicial notice is provided.
The real difficulty here is to distinguish between facts. For example, if we are asked to distinguish between a book of history and a book referred to for the purposes of section 35 to 37. Acceding to Vepa P. Sarathi, the real difference is that in case of matters judicially noticed the court is merely refreshing its memory, the court actually knows about the fact but still it refers to the book to refresh its memory whereas in the case of book tendered as evidence the court doesn’t know the facts or the information that is given by the book.
In the case of Mc Quaker v. Goddard, the court had to decide whether a camel was a domestic animal or a wild animal. In that a case a man was bitten by a camel, so if the court decide that the camel was a domestic animal then the man would get his compensation according to the ruling of Rylands v. Fletcher but if it’s decided to be a wild animal then the person will be made liable to have known its dangerous nature. The court took judicial notice that the camel was a domestic anima and decided the case basing on it. In this case, it was seen that in a previous case a separate court as already taken judicial notice that the camel was a domestic animal and in the British law it requires an act of the parliament to change the camel to a wild animal again.
In another case namely Ujagar Singh v. Mst. Jeo, the court has to deal with a custom of Punjab that sisters have to be excluded during the distribution of property by collaterals. In this case, this custom was said to have been established by the Rattigan’s Digest. The court, in this case, held that it has not a uniformly recognised custom to exclude sisters during inheritance of non-ancestral property by collaterals. The court said that since it is not a uniformly recognised custom it thinks that the Rattigan’s Digest is not correct in this matter. Thus, the court did not take judicial notice of the said custom and stuck to the general rule that sisters should also be included during the inheritance of property by collaterals. Since the court did not take judicial notice the fact that sisters should not be included during inheritance of non-ancestral property by the collaterals need to be proved, according to section 48 of the Indian evidence act, by the party who asserts it.
Judicial notice can be taken of a custom which has been repeatedly recognised by courts. For example, in the case of Ass Kaur v. Karter Singh, the court took judicial notice of the custom that on death of a brother, his widow was to be taken as the wife of the living brother and the property inherited by the widow will be automatically going to the living brother.
Also, in another case, Atluri Brahmanandan v. Anne Sai Bapuji the Supreme Court took judicial notice widely recognised custom among the Kamma community of Andhra Pradesh, that a boy more than 15 years of age can also be adopted legally.
Matters of common knowledge– The court took judicial notice of matters of common knowledge in various cases such as in the case of D.C. Oswal v. V.K.Subbiah the court judicial notice that there has been a general rise is the price of rentals and thus allowed the increase of rents. In the case of Ahsanul Hoda v. State of Bihar, the court took judicial notice that the average market value of land has gone up. In another case, the court has taken judicial notice that more and more youngsters these days are becoming an alcohol addict.
In the case of United India Insurance Company Ltd. v. Virambhai Ranchhodbhai Patel the court took judicial notice of the fact that there has been an increment in the value of the services of a housewife. So, it increased the compensation amount in this case, where a housewife was killed in a motor vehicles accident.
In other well-known instances too, the court took judicial notice. Since it is well known that there has been an urgency in Delhi to create sewage treatment plant, the court in the case of Jai Narain v. Union of India took judicial notice that there has been an urgency to acquire lands in Delhi to build sewage treatment plants.
The court in the case of State of M.P. v. Dhirendra Kumar that the many times the registers and case diaries are not recorded and kept in the prescribed manner.
Section 58 talks about admissions of the parties to a case. This section says that the facts admitted by a party during hearing or before hearing in writing or by any rule of pleading in force at the time of the case need not be proved and the court can take judicial notice of such facts, however, this section also says that if the court wants it can ask for proof of those admissions.
Admissions are made deliberately during or before a judicial proceeding in contemplation that judicial notice will be taken of such admissions. However, the court can ask for proof if it feels the need for the same.
For example, the court in divorce proceedings, under the Divorce Act 1869 can ask for strict proof of admissions if it feels that they were done by collusion.
The admission made by a party in some earlier suit can be used against it in subsequent suits too. The admissions made by a party specifically are called express admission whereas a specific denial of certain facts may lead to implied admission.
In L.K.Verma v. HMT Ltd. the question before the court was whether or not an officer was abused by an employee, the accused made an admission in the court that he abused the officer by the use of filthy language, the court said that no further evidence is necessary after the admission.
The purpose of these sections is to curb out the time wasted by proving the facts that are well known or are of common knowledge. Such obvious facts are automatically taken into notice by the court. then comes admission, only when the court thinks that the admission needs to be proved the court can ask for proof, this happens generally when the court thinks that the admission is done in collusion of coercion or similar. We see that while these sections save the precious time of the courts and the contesting parties at the same time the court is also given the discretion to safeguard the interest of the admitting party.