Overview of Indian Evidence Act 1872 | Evidence Law Explained

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A ground-breaking legal measure was established in India with the enactment and approval of the Indian Evidence Act, which completely altered the system of ideas about the admissibility of evidence in Indian courts of law. The term “evidence” refers to something that tries to confirm or refute the truth or falsity of a fact. Evidence acts as an essential element for the court it offers direction to the court and helps in meeting the ends of justice.  The Supreme Court, in the case of Kalyan Kumar Gogoi v. Ashutosh Agnihotri and Anr, AIR 2011 made the following remarks regarding evidence. The term "evidence" has three different meanings in everyday speech as; 

  •  Equivalent to relevant,
  •  As an equivalent to proof, and
  • As an equivalent to the material, based on which Courts conclude the existence or non-existence of disputed facts.
    Indian Evidence Act is an Adjective Law, Drafted by Sir James Fitz James Stephen on 1st September 1872. The British Parliament passed the Indian Evidence Act in 1872, which established the guidelines for admissible evidence in Indian courts and had a significant impact on the country's ancient caste-based forms of governance. The Indian Evidence Act applies to:
  • all judicial proceedings in or before any court, which include court-martial, except those under the Courts Discipline Act, the Indian Navy (Discipline) Act, 1934, 
  • and the Air Force Act. Affidavits submitted to any court-martial convened under the Army Act, the Naval or officer, or in connection with arbitration proceedings are not covered by this law.

Important provisions under the Indian Evidence Act, of 1872

The Indian evidence act includes various provisions which hold great significance. The initial Interpretation Clause in section 3 of the act is said to be primary. Broadly the essential provisions range from the relevancy of facts, admissibility, confession, confession to police, classification of proof, and lastly the production of evidence comprising cross-examination, etc. 

Classification of Indian evidence act:

  • Relevancy of Facts Section(s) 5 to 55 of the Indian Evidence Act. 
  • Classification of proof Section(s) 56 to 100 of the Indian Evidence Act.
  • Production and effect of Evidence Section(s) 101 to 167 of the Indian Evidence Act.

Relevancy of Facts

Relevant evidence acts as an aid or is ancillary in nature however it is appropriate or probable to give rise to a conclusion about right or risk based on a method of reasoning. 

Under Sections 5 to 55 of the Indian evidence act relevancy of facts is described as comprising a total of 51 sections. Section 9 of the act states, Facts are necessary to explain or introduce relevant facts, it is relevant as a lead-up to and is impacted by the issue's certainties. Section 11 of the Indian Evidence Act also regulates sufficiency. The substances covered by Section 11 are those that are not typically noteworthy. Section 11 as stated under the section Facts not otherwise relevant.  

The legal criteria stated by the court in the American case of Knapp v. State was that “The assurance of the determination of a single thing of evidence lays on whether verification of that evidence would sensible in general assistance determine the crucial issue at trial.” 

Different Types of Evidence

Sections 59- 61 specify the various kinds of evidence. Broadly there are two categories of evidence under the Indian evidence act. 1) Oral Evidence; 2) Documentary Evidence. Further sub-divided into primary and secondary or direct and indirect.  

Evidence can be submitted in court using electronic records, which means that even in criminal situations, evidence can be provided through electronic records. Evidence can also be both oral and documentary. Included in this is video conferencing.


Except for the contents of documents all facts may be proved by the oral evidence as mentioned under section 59. Spoken words by mouth don’t need to be only applicable under oral evidence. Other methods are also referred to as oral evidence. Primary oral evidence is that which a witness has personally heard, seen, or obtained via their senses.

Oral testimony is subject to the Hearsay Rule. This evidence is useless and only the proclaimed evidence of the observer. This indirect evidence originates not from the witness's knowledge but rather from a third party. There are a few exceptions to the rule of hearsay, Res Gestae, admission and confession, and dying declaration. 

Section 60 of the Indian evidence act states that it must be direct. Any fact that has been heard, seen or perceived using any sense, or by establishing an opinion qualifies as proof. Then, by this clause, it could only be valid if it was provided by someone who heard, saw, perceived, or formed an opinion following a specific incident.

The distinction between verbal and oral communication is outlined in the case of Queen-Empress v. Abdullah.

Although the word "verbal" refers to words, speaking those words is not required. Therefore, if the term "oral" is used in the section, it signifies that the sentence should be said aloud. Since verbal is a more general term than oral, they cannot be related.


When the document is considered evidence and the same is presented before the court it is referred to as documentary evidence. It is a declaration that was provided through the paperwork. The documents, which are presented to the court, are made up of words, signs, letters, figures, and observations. Primary or secondary evidence must be used to substantiate the documentary evidence's claims.

Manner of proof-Burden of proof- Presumption without calling for proof

The phrase "burden of proof" is not defined under the Indian Evidence Act. The burden of proof is stated in Sections 101 to 114-A. The legal duty or obligation for the parties to establish the facts that will help the court rule in their favor, however, is known as the burden of proof. They claim that in some circumstances, a specific person is responsible for proving a fact. 

Everyone is presumed innocent unless and unless proven guilty, according to the presumption of innocence in law. Legal inferences about the existence of specific facts are known as presumptions. Although presumptions are an exception to the general rule that the burden of evidence shifts to the party asserting that certain facts exist, they still do away with this need.

Cases containing conclusive evidence are covered in Sections 112 and 113. According to Section 114, the Court may assume without any proof the existence of specific facts that should happen in the regular flow of natural phenomena, human behavior, and public and private business.

For some crimes: - 

  • Section 111-A creates a presumption of guilt. If a married woman commits suicide within seven years of her marriage and has been abused by her husband or his family, 
  • Section 113-A establishes a presumption of suicide abetment. 
  • There is a presumption of dowry death established by Section 113-B. 
  • In some rape proceedings, Section 114-A establishes a presumption of lack of consent.

In the case of State of West Bengal v. Mohd. Omar, it was observed that theirs a need to alter this concept's viewpoint (2002). Justice Thomas here contends that the conventional strategy, which consistently places the burden of proof on the prosecution, favours only those who have been charged with heinous crimes and causes tragedies for society. The court must assume the existence of certain facts and rely on them when a prosecutor successfully establishes them. In other words, since only the accused is aware of every action performed, the burden of proof shifts to the accused after the court is satisfied with the prosecution's case.

The Doctrine of Estoppel:

Estoppel is where a man’s act or acceptance stopped or closes up his mouth to allege or plead the truth. Estoppel is based on the principle of equity and the maxim “Allegens contraria nonest audiendus” meaning alleging contradictory fact should not be heard. It is another rule leading to evidence. 

The following prerequisites must be met to apply the doctrine of estoppel:

  • There must be two parties, with one of them representing the other.
  • The other must have taken action in response to this representation.
  • A party's position must have changed as a result of such representation.

 Sections 40-43 of the Indian evidence act exemplify estoppel by the matter of record. Estoppel by records is a legal doctrine that refers to the use of records as evidence in judicial proceedings. Thus, It is a court's record that is referred to as a matter of record. 

Estoppel by deed is when a party has consented according to the accurate interpretation of the transactions it should be highlighted that if the deed was obtained through fraud, forgery, or another unethical method, no estoppel will apply.

Estoppel in pais: When someone intentionally misrepresents the truth, either by their words or their actions, and another reasonable person can infer that they did so because of their behavior or their knowledge that what they said was untrue or because they intended for it to be used as justification for the action.

Competency, comparability, examination, and cross-examination of witnesses and impeachment of witness credibility:

The provisions of Sections 118, 119, 120, and 133 deal with the qualifications of persons who can testify as witnesses. Understanding and capability of a witness make him competent. Where nothing is preventing the witness in the eyes of law to appear before the court as a witness he is referred to as a competent witness. A witness shall never be compelled. comparability is referred to as a privilege; Sections 122-132 discuss this privilege. 

Witness is examined when they are questioned about pertinent details of the case and their statements are recorded as evidence. The examination of a witness is divided into three sections and is governed by Section 138 of the Evidence Act.

In the case of Ghulam Rasool Khan v. Wali Khan, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir held that “cross-examination might not be necessary if the witness testimony is prima facie unacceptable.”

Cross-examination helps in the rectification of false facts. Cross-examination is a skill that must be learned through time; there is no set of rules that clearly defines how it should be conducted. However, there are some rules for cross-examination that are outlined in the Act. Cross-examination must be relevant to the facts by Section 138 of the Act. The opposing side can choose not to limit the questions to those that were included in the exam.

The subject of impeaching a witness is covered in Section 155. Giving testimony to disprove, challenge, or bolster the credibility of someone who testified by Sections 32 and 33 of the Act is covered by Section 158 of the Act. By Sections 159 to 161, a witness may reread the previously submitted documentation to refresh his recollection. The extent of the judge's and jury's rights to question witnesses is outlined in Sections 165 and 166.

Admissibility of Evidence:

Admissibility signifies that only factual details can be used in a legal proceeding. The Indian Evidence Act, of 1872 specifies which types of evidence are acceptable in Section 136. According to Section 136, the judge has the power to determine whether or not a piece of evidence is acceptable. Section 136 further stipulates that the judge may inquire of the parties as to whether or not the evidence they have presented relates to a relevant fact.


All legal means that have the potential to support or refute any fact are viewed as evidence. The Indian Evidence Act deals with matters relating to the gathering of evidence and the admissibility of evidence on the issues, based on which the Courts have to record findings. These issues include the relevancy of facts, admission, confession, facts of which the court should take judicial notice, oral evidence, documentary evidence, legal presumptions, the burden of proof, estoppel, and other similar matters. Cross-examining the witnesses is an important part of presenting evidence and proving the pertinent facts in both civil and criminal cases. The Act's provisions are crucial for witness protection because they guarantee the witness' right to provide a testimony free from coercion or fear.