Presumption in layman language usually means, ascertaining a fact-based on a possibility. But in legal terms, a presumption is a rule of law which a court assumes to be true until there is a preponderance of evidence which outweighs it. It is the one which is prescribed and must be drawn in the absence of any evidence on the contrary. According to Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, Presumption (law) refers to the act of supposing that something is true, although it has not yet been proved or is not certain. Hence, the presumption is a supposition based on a policy of law and not just upon facts (or evidence). However, if the fact is absolute, then it is not a presumption but a certainty. Presumption of law is assumed by the law itself. It involves presumed facts.
According to Black’s Law Dictionary, “presumption” is defined as a rebuttable assumption of fact, resulting from a rule of law which requires such fact to be assumed from another fact or facts found or otherwise established in the action.
Under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the classification of Presumptions of law can be classified as:
- Rebuttable presumptions of Law-
- Irrebuttable presumptions of Law-
Presumption of law is said to be “Rebuttable” when it is drawn in the absence of any evidence to the contrary. It is a supposed fact accepted by the court until proven otherwise. According to the definition given in US Legal, Rebuttable presumption is a particular rule of law that may be inferred from the existence of a given set of facts and that is conclusive absent contrary evidence. Presumption of this sort takes effect prima facie. Hence, the validity of rebuttable presumptions lasts only until no contrary proof. Once it is contradicted, it loses its existence. Every Rebuttable presumption is either a presumption affecting the burden of producing evidence or a presumption affecting the burden of proof.
For example, birth during the marriage is conclusive proof of the legitimacy of a child; Presumption as to dowry death within seven years of marriage. In Smt. Shanti and another v. State of Haryana, the Supreme Court allowed the presumption stated under Sec. 113B of Indian Evidence Act since the death was caused within seven years and on the basis of this application, one of the in-laws of the deceased was convicted for causing dowry death. So, in matrimonial offences, presumptions are rebuttable, as the possibility of getting contrary evidence is highly low as these occur mostly within the house.
The conditions for the application of a rebuttable presumption of law are uniform; consequently, it alters the burden of proof of an issue. Some of the conditions where presumptions are usually rebuttable are presumption of sanity, the presumption of constitutionality and presumption of possession i.e. burden of proof as to ownership.
Irrebuttable presumptions, praesumptio iuris et de iure in Latin, are also known as conclusive presumptions as they are the ones which cannot be disproved and the court is under obligation to draw the conclusion and no evidence is receivable to dislodge. It means that evidence of this sort cannot be rebutted by any contractual evidence. An act of child under the age of seven years is no offence, here the court presumes that that child is incapable to committing any crime, and no contrary evidence can prove that the child is capable enough to commit an offence. Hence, this can set an example of irrebuttable presumption. There are some of the irrebuttable presumptions and are said to be the rules of substantive law, for example, estoppel by record.
Under Section 4 of the Indian Evidence Act, “Conclusive proof” is defined as, When one fact is declared by this Act to be conclusive proof of another, the Court shall, on proof of the one fact, regard the other as proved, and shall not allow evidence to be given for the purpose of disproving it.
Rebuttable presumptions permit evidence to be admissible to dislodge such presumptions where irrebuttable presumptions do not. Even if the evidence may be adduced, it is receivable in rebuttal of such presumptions. Hence, most presumptions are rebuttable. A rule raising a rebuttable presumption is evidently a rule of evidence for the fact that its only effect is to shift the onus of proof. The irrebuttable presumption was created by a rule of substantive law, as it is conclusive and substantive law defines the crimes and set forth punishment.
- Presumption, PRESUMPTION NOUN- DEFINITION, PICTURES, PRONUNCIATION AND USAGE NOTES | OXFORD ADVANCED LEARNER’S DICTIONARY AT OXFORDLEARNERSDICTIONARIES.COM, https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/presumption?q=presumption(last visited June 06, 2020)
- REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION OF LAW AND LEGAL DEFINITION | USLEGAL, INC. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/rebuttable_presumption(last visited June 06, 2020)
- Bryan, G. (2019). Black’s Law Dictionary (11th). Toronto, Canada: Thomson Reuters.
- 4, 110, 112 and 113B, The Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- 82, The Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- 173, The Evidence Act, 2011.
- Shanti and another v. State of Haryana, AIR 1991 SC 1226
 Presumption, PRESUMPTION NOUN- DEFINITION, PICTURES, PRONUNCIATION AND USAGE NOTES | OXFORD ADVANCED LEARNER’S DICTIONARY AT OXFORDLEARNERSDICTIONARIES.COM, https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/presumption?q=presumption
Bryan, G. (2019). Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed.). Toronto, Canada: Thomson Reuters.
 REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION OF LAW AND LEGAL DEFINITION | USLEGAL, INC. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/rebuttable_presumption
 Bhoora Singh v. State of U.P., 1992 ALL. L. J. 749
 Section 112, The Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
 Smt. Shanti and another v. State of Haryana, AIR 1991 SC 1226
 Sec.82, The Indian Penal Code, 1860.
 Sec.173, The Evidence Act, 2011.
 Section 4, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
This article is authored by Kalyani Paunikar, First-Year, B.A. LL.B (Hons.) student at Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai.
Also Read – Opinion of Experts – Section 45 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872