The article titled 'Landmark Cases on the Law of Evidence' summarizes the rulings issued by Indian courts in the realm of evidence law.

Precedents from the Supreme Court of India and the High Courts of several states have helped to influence the development of evidence law in India. The Evidence Law is the applicable body of law upon which a court must base its decision in any specific case.

The judgments cover the various aspects of Evidence law like res gestae, dying declaration, alibi and confessions etc.

Landmark Cases on the Law of Evidence

1. Ram Bihari Yadav v. State of Bihar & Ors., 1998 SCC(CRI) 1085

This case was an appeal in the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the conviction order of the Patna High Court and Trial Court of Dhanbad. In this case, the appellant, Ram Bihari was accused of murdering his wife namely Smt. Shivratri Devi. The accused was convicted of murdering Smt, Shivratri Devi by burning her. The victim in this case had made a dying declaration regarding her murderer which was “Mujhe mere pati ne jala diya..”, the issue in this case was related to the admissibility of the said dying declaration and whether convicting the accused based on the same declaration was justiciable.

In this case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court discussed the meanings and legal implications of the terms “admissibility” and “relevancy”. The court held that the weight of the evidence (in this case dying declaration) must be assessed based on the facts and circumstances of the case. According to Section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act, the statement of a deceased person regarding the cause of such person’s death is relevant and admissible as evidence when the cause of such death is in question. However, the weight of the dying declaration will depend upon the facts of the case.

The court upheld the conviction order of the High Court and Trial Court. It held the accused guilty of murdering his wife by burning her as there was enough circumstantial evidence to support the dying declaration of the deceased wife.

2. Vasa Chandrasekhar Rao v. Ponna Satyanarayana & Anr., 2000 AIR SC 2138

In the present case, the accused was charged with the murder of Suneetha and Padmavati that is his daughter and wife respectively. This was an appeal in the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the order of acquittal by the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The case dealt with the doctrine of res gestae in section 6 of the Indian Evidence Act.

In the present case, on the date of the murder, the accused, the wife and daughter were residing along with the parents of the accused. Later that day, a family member of the wife received a phone call about the said murder from the father of the accused. Further, the neighbours also witnessed the accused in blood-stained clothes and told the neighbours about him murdering his wife and daughter on being questioned about the same. The question was raised whether the phone call by the father of the accused would be “res gestae” under section 6 of the Act.

The Supreme Court stated that hearsay evidence might become admissible if the same falls under section 6 of the Act that is if the act takes place immediately or right after the incident. However in the present case, as there was a lack of evidence regarding the time of the call etc, therefore the same would not fall under Section 6. The Supreme Court overturned the acquittal and held the accused guilty of murder under the Indian Penal Code, section 302 as the other evidence pointed towards the same.

3. Nishi Kant Jha v. State of Bihar, 1969 AIR 422

The accused was a student who had been accused of the murder of a fellow student whose body was found in the lavatory of the first-class compartment of a train. The accused was found washing his bloody clothes in a river nearby, on being asked he stated that he had been assaulted by a cowboy. the witness who saw the boy washing the clothes on learning about the murder went along with others to search for him. Eventually, the accused was apprehended, and the accused gave his statements to the Mukhya that he was also on the train along with a “stranger” named Lal Mohan Sharma Lal Mohan Sharma was the one who killed the boy and later he fled away.

The case was an appeal against the High Court’s conviction order. The issue was whether the statement recorded by the village’s Mukhya was acceptable and whether the statement could be accepted in part.

The Supreme Court held that the statement recorded by Mukhya was admissible. Further, the Court held that the inculpatory part of a statement which means a part in which the person admits to the commission of a crime could be accepted as evidence whilst rejecting the exculpatory part is the part that removes the guilt of the accused. Based on this, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence of the High Court.

4. Dudh Nath Pandey v. State of U.P, 1981 SCC (2) 166

In this case, a young boy namely Vijay Bhan Kishore was shot dead near Hathi Park in Allahabad. The accused was convicted of murder by the trial court as well as the High Court of Allahabad, further, the accused appealed in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. The case involves Section 11 of the Indian Evidence Act which deals with the Plea of Alibi.

The accused used to work in the Indian Telephone Industry. The entire incident was witnessed by the domestic servant of the family of Vijay Bhan Kishore and his friend who had informed the mother of the deceased about the incident. The defense stated that during the offence he was in his workplace, further, several witnesses also agreed on his presence at work the day of the murder.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court stated that the plea of alibi is only permissible when the presence of a person at the scene of offence is impossible as the place where he was at the time of the commission of the absence was so far that he could not be available at both the places. The Court held that as the distance between the workplace and the place of offence was very less, therefore the accused being present at the place of offence at the time of commission of the offence is not improbable. Further, the evidence also shows that all the evidence took place in such a short period that there was no chance of fabrication or misinterpretation. Therefore the Court upheld the conviction of the boy.

5. Aghnoo Nagesia v. State of Bihar, 1966 SCR (1) 134

In this case, the accused was charged and convicted for the murders of several of his family members. The accused was convicted by the Chotanagpur Judicial Commissioner and later by the Patna High Court, the accused then appealed in the Apex Court. In this case, the accused himself filed an FIR in the police station after which he was arrested. The murders had no eye witness, however, he helped the police discover the bodies and weapons.

The Apex Court held that as the confession made by the accused himself was made to the police officer such confession is not admissible as according to section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act. Further, even section 26 prevents acceptance of confessions made in police custody. Further section 27 of the Act is an exception to Sections 25 and 26. The Apex Court did not accept the confession as the statement made by the accused was before his custody, further, the Court allowed the admission of information which helped in the discovery of other evidence. However, the sentence of the accused was set aside due to a lack of direct evidence.

6. Kalyan Kumar Gogoi v. Ashutosh Agnihotri and another, Civil Appeal No. 4820 of 2007

An appeal under Section 116A of the Representation of the People Act of 1951 gave rise to this case. An electoral dispute arose, and the petitioner's nomination papers—along with those of the other candidates in the constituency—were ultimately deemed to be invalid.

Under the Law of Evidence, the court concluded that hearsay evidence is not admissible since it cannot be used to establish substantial facts.

The court laid certain parameters - Since the obligation of the person providing hearsay evidence is negated, it instantly destroys the aim of evidence law, which requires all evidence to be brought before a court with responsibility and awareness on the part of the one giving it. If it doesn't, the person might be found guilty of perjury in court.

Admitting hearsay into court dilutes the truth that must be stated, wasting the time of both the court and the opposing side. In addition, it is unjust to the person against whom the evidence is provided if the courts accept hearsay testimony since it opens the door to the possibilities of fraud, deceit, and undue influence.

7. Roop Kumar v. Mohan Thedani, (Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No. 5835/2001)

There was abuse and misuse of the judicial system based on spurious evidence and contentious legal reasoning. The defendant committed a trespass by erasing all evidence of property ownership and then displaying signboards and other forms of advertising as though the roop tailors were operating out of the in-shape location.

This case demonstrated how the employment of dubious arguments may weaken a just cause, resulting in the loss or denial of compensation that the injured person is entitled to receive.

The Supreme Court pointed out that Section 91 precludes the proving of written content by any techniques other than writing. This is relevant for establishing the terms of gifts, bequests, and other transfers of property. Under the principle of substantive law, as proclaimed in Section 91, documentary evidence is accorded substantial weight. Therefore, the best evidence rule must be used. Given the limitations set by Section 91, it is worth emphasizing that a third party who intends to demonstrate the existence of a contract between two parties must do so by giving a copy of the contract in writing. While both Section 91 and Section 92 prohibit using oral evidence to identify a party to modify the terms of a contract, the latter restricts it while the former does not. In contrast to Section 91, which addresses the nature of the evidence supporting the document presented to the Court, Section 92 principally relates to the parties to the document.

Section 91 applies to bilateral instruments as well as unilateral ones, however, Section 92 only applies to bilateral contracts. The Supreme Court has determined that Section 91 precludes the use of any evidence other than a written record to verify the contents of a written document. Transfers, grants, and other conveyances of property have their terms recorded here. Section 91 declares that written documents should be given substantially higher weight than spoken testimony.

Therefore, it may be used with the best evidence rule. In light of the restrictions outlined in Section 91, it is important to emphasize that a third party who wishes to prove the existence of a contract between two parties must do so by producing a written copy of such a contract. The use of oral evidence to determine the identity of a party to amend a contract is prohibited under both Section 91 and Section 92, however, this problem is dealt with explicitly in Section 91. The latter paragraph places restrictions on the admission of such evidence that is not present in the earlier.

8. Bodha and Others v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, Appeal (crl.) 921 of 2000

The trial court found the appellant not guilty, the high court reversed the ruling, and he was found guilty. However, the trial court found both other defendants not guilty and the high court affirmed that finding. The deceased defendant Swaran Singh ran a financing firm from which two other defendants, Ashok Kumar, and Ravinder Kumar, had borrowed money. The defendants later advised Singh to set up a flour mill by entering into a financial arrangement and depositing the necessary funds in a bank. The three suspects travelled to the mill site together, where they were ambushed by a group of individuals who killed one and injured the other two.

If it is possible to prove guilt by discovering an attack weapon based on information supplied by the accused, especially while the accused is in jail?

The Court has gone through several of the most important requirements for a guilty conviction to be obtained by using just conclusions from circumstantial evidence. Constructing rigid requirements is crucial for deducing a controversial situation. In other words, it can't be cracked and must be tested and true. There can be no room for uncertainty, and the moral clarity of the issue must be maintained. The only hypothesis that matters is the one that needs to be verified.

The intent of Section 27 is to permit the court to use some portions of the accused's statements to the police officer as evidence, regardless of whether or not such statements constitute confessions. In addition, the Court ruled that the ban imposed by Sections 25 and 26 of the Act of 1872 would be negated if the accused words were related to the discovery of facts.

Statements made by an accused person while in detention are admissible under Section 27 but must be confirmed and recorded by the prosecution to uphold the Doctrine of Confirmation, which is at the heart of this provision. In Section 27, we examine the distinction between retrieving an object and making a discovery. Whether or whether such information is admissible in court under Section 27 depends on the kind of fact that has been stated about it. The other options are unacceptable. It is essential that the circumstantial evidence is of a conclusive kind to establish a relationship between the offender and the crime.

9. Anvar P.V. v. P.K. Basheer and Others, Civil Appeal No. 4226 of 2012

The case centres on elections for the Eranad Legislative Assembly, in which the respondent, backed by the United Democratic Front, emerged victorious. Despite running as an independent and receiving support from the political left, the appellant came in second place in the election. However, the appellant claimed in a petition challenging the results of the election that the respondent had wrongfully won. After the high court in Kerala dismissed the appeal, the plaintiff took the case to the Supreme Court.

Whether or not the electronic evidence given by the appellant was acceptable in court and whether or not the respondent's election may be overturned.

This judgement rejected the Supreme Court's previous ruling of NCT of Delhi v. Navajo Sands also known as the Parliament assault case which remarked that an electronic record as a shred of secondary evidence should not be accepted before the court. The respondent's election was upheld since the court's appeal was found to be without substance. The case was thrown out because the evidence presented electronically did not meet section 65B requirements.

The technical evidence presented by the appellant here simply isn't sufficient. Electronic recordings must be accepted as documentary evidence under Section 3. Any electronic record submitted to the court as documentary evidence according to Sections 59 and 65A must be authenticated using the procedure specified in Section 65B. Section 65B of the Evidence Act was introduced to make it easier for electronic forms to be used as supplementary evidence in Indian courts. The Supreme Court further said that the non-obstante clause included at Section 65B's outset must be taken into consideration.

10. Dr Sunil Clifford Daniel v. State of Punjab (2012) 11 SCC 205

This case involves a ruling on the link between Section 162 of the CRPC and Section 27 of the Law of Evidence. The appellant was found guilty and sentenced to life in jail and a fine of 2000/- INR under Sections 302 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code. The information and facts gathered about the death of the appellant's wife were very contentious.

The question arose whether the witness be bound by his statement which was given to investigative authorities.

According to the text of the Statute of Evidence Act, "any statement made by any person to a police officer in the course of an investigation done, if reduced to writing, be not signed by the person making it" is prohibited unless the statement is signed by the person making it. The court ruled that this clearly shows that a witness cannot sign a statement they gave to an investigating officer under threat of legal consequences. Said another way, the witness's statements to the appropriate authorities will not bind him in any manner.

Statements prepared by Section 27 of the Evidence Act, however, are not subject to the rules outlined in Section 162(1) of the Canadian Rules of Civil Procedure. The Supreme Court made this comment while noting that the investigating officer is not required under Section 27 of the Act of 1872 to get the accused's initials in the statements that have been attributed to him. However, if these initials have been legitimately obtained, they will be treated as such.

11. Mangala Waman Karandikar (D) TR. LRS. v. Prakash Damodar Ranad AIR 2021 SC 2272, (2021) 6 SCC 139

After the death of the petitioner's spouse, she continued using the business he had been running under the name "Karandhikar Siblings," but when she realized she couldn't keep up with it, she transferred ownership to the respondent along with a set of arrangements for commercial sales production. However, there was an issue with the contract.

If Sections 92 and 95 can be applied to unclear documents/contracts and whether or not it is required to analyze extraneous information when the terms of the contract are unambiguous.

After an initial ruling in favour of the petitioner, the case made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that further investigation of extrinsic pieces of evidence is unnecessary when the terms of the contract are clear and unambiguous. The contract's wording must be given its literal interpretation, and the court must make its determination solely based on the parties intentions.

The High Court's reading of this case, as seen by Judges Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, breaches a fundamental principle of legal interpretation, they argue, by expanding the scope of Section 92 beyond what was intended by the legislature. The court based its judgment on the 2012 case of Rohitash Kumar v. Om Prakash Sharma.

The Supreme Court agreed with the appellant that it was evident from reading the contract that the parties intended to transfer the business from the appellant to the respondent, even though the contract contained no language that could be interpreted as rent or permission for the respondent to lead the business. Since the significance of the document was obvious, the Supreme Court similarly decided that it was unnecessary to depend on Clause 6 to Section 92 and Section 95. As such, the court was presided over by India's Chief Justice.

According to a recent judgment by Justice NV Ramana, Section 95 only elaborated on the sixth provision of Section 92. If the other interpretation were used, Section 92 of the Evidence Act would be added, extending the scope of the proviso even further than the main Section. Contrary to the first criterion of legal interpretation, the High Court's wide approach is not consistent with the law. Any proof of an oral agreement that conflicts with, differs from, adds to or subtracts from the conditions of Section 92 is explicitly banned. If you accept the authority to provide evidence to contradict or alter such terms, you are agreeing with the learned judge's findings that the record's circumstances were different from those stated in it, which is similar to the language of Section 92 of the Act.

12. Arjun Panditrao Khotkar v. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal, Civil Appeal No. 20825-20826 of 2017

The Respondent contended that all four sets of nomination documents for elections of state assembly were illegally accepted by the RO which had severe faults in them and that the candidates elected should be declared null and invalid after the Bombay High Court reviewed the nomination papers.

Whether the nomination papers were unlawful and should the election of the candidates be held null and void?

The Supreme Court ruled that the Elections Commission must provide the raw video footage and all associated computer papers and credentials. Using the Indian Evidence Act and Information Technology Act of 2000 Section 65B, the court found a friendly connection. As the court said, "Section 65B of the latter has been a complete Code by itself, and therefore the former legislation and the statutory provision of the Evidence Act behaves as legal machinery against technological overpowering." It is a well-established principle, as noted by the three-judge bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, S. Ravindra Bhat, and V. Ramasubramanian, that the Evidence Act does not permit proof of an electronic record through oral evidence if the requirements provided under Section 65B of the Act are not complied with or abided by.

13. Bhagwan Singh v. State of Punjab, 1992 SCR (3) 180

The appellant worked as a policeman for the Crime Investigation Department under the direction of Jagat Singh. To assist the accused avoid conviction, the appellant paid the chief policeman to return the money so that it might be exchanged for other marks. The head constable reported the incident to DSP and began investigating under 411 of IPC, at which point the appellant and accused were apprehended. The appellant was found guilty and given a harsh one-year jail term by the High Court.

Whether the prosecutor can cross-examine his witness when the witness turned hostile is admissible?

The court denied the appeal and noted that the prosecution's case would not be jeopardized by allowing the defence attorney to cross-examine his witness after labelling him hostile. The higher court upheld the original sentence.

14. Bhimsha Subanna Pawar v. State of Maharashtra 1996 (1) BOMCR 212

The victim and his wife while travelling when got down from the bus, the 6 accused emerged and started beating the victims with iron rods and when the wife shouted for help, she was also beaten. The victim sustained injuries and died. The wife along with a witness travelled back to their village on foot and lodged an F.I.R.

Whether to take into account the situations in which the Court lacks the independent evidence which is not available necessary to proceed with the conviction of the accused

Given the lack of corroborating evidence, the court has determined that it must carefully assess the credibility of the police officer's testimony to determine whether or not the accused is guilty. It would be reasonable and prudent to accept the inspector's uncontradicted account of the discovery of the weapons in question to establish a reliable link pointing toward the defendant's guilt given that the discovery of assault weapons corroborated the defendant's account and there was no evidence to suggest that the inspector was biassed against the defendant.

15. Ram Jas v. Surendra Nath, AIR 1980 All 385

It was contended in court that a presumption should be made concerning the execution, attestation, and writing of a certified copy of a registered will under Section 90(2) of the Evidence Act.

The Civil Judge did not grant the appeal because Section 90 did not apply. Since it was a verified copy of a registered document, it could come under both Sub-Section (2) of Section 90 and Sub-Section (1) of Section 90-A, which is what caused the disagreement. Under Subsection 90(2), records longer than 20 years are taken care of. Under Section 90-A, there is no difference like this. People say that because Section 90-A doesn't have any age limits, it applies to all papers, even ones that are more than 20 years old, and that the presumption in Subsection (2) of Section 90 or Section 90-A(1) won't apply in these situations. The lawsuit says that Subsection (2) doesn't apply to Section 90 documents and that the assumption in Section 90 is different from the one in Section 90-A, so it can't be made useless by the one in Section 90-A.

Whether in such circumstances the presumption could be raised where conditions contemplated by Section 90 of IEA were present and whether the document can be the basis of the suit where no presumption on its due execution was raised.

The rule of evidence doesn't change the rights of the parties, but it does make it easier for justice to be done. It tells the Courts how to do their jobs. It is about how a fact can be proven, or how the process works.

“The presumptions available under Sections 90 and 90-A are also not similar. Section 90(2) permits the raising of the presumption in respect of the signature, handwriting, execution, and attestation, while Section 90 permits a presumption only in respect of execution. Section 90 deals with documents that are more than 20 years old while Section 90-A places no such restriction and includes also documents from judicial records Neither of the two sections, therefore, can be said to be occupying a field that the other exclusively occupies. They deal with different fields and different circumstances and permit different types of presumptions to be raised. For the reasons given above it is not possible to hold that Sub-section (2) of Section 90-A will override and nullify Section 90 if the document, though more than twenty years old, is the basis of the suit or the defense or is relied upon in the plaint or written statement. We are, therefore, of the opinion that Om Prakash v. Bhagwan (AIR 1974 All 389) does not lay down the correct law”


The importance of evidence law is shown by the extensive discussion of the Supreme Court of India's ruling on the admissibility of electronic evidence. Due to the extensive background of the field of law known as "evidence law," we can only appreciate the Law of Evidence seeking to achieve via key court judgments.

Avishikta Biswas

Avishikta Biswas

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