What is Evidence? The word “evidence” means proof. Evidence plays an important role in the court of law to prove an alleged fact. Although, all alleged facts considered by the party as evidence may not always be the evidence in the eyes of law. Evidence is something used to prove/disprove an issue under the dispute. According to Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, Evidence refers to the information that is used in the court to prove something1. Hence, evidence has to be concrete.
According to The Indian Evidence Act of 1872, “Evidence” means and includes –– (1) all statements which the Court permits or requires to be made before it by witnesses, in relation to matters of fact under inquiry; such statements are called oral evidence; (2) 4 [all documents including electronic records produced for the inspection of the Court;] such documents are called documentary evidence2. But Evidence and law of evidence is different concepts altogether and one shouldn’t be confused between them.
According to definition, given by Stephen, in Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, “Evidence” means and includes—(1) all statements which the Court permits or requires to be made before it by witnesses…; such statements are called oral evidence (2) all documents produced for the inspection of the Court; all such documents are called documentary evidence3.
The aim of the courts is to determine the truth with the help of all the best evidence available and serve justice. Evidence is important in procedural as well as substantive law. Procedural law determines the procedure for the case to go through while substantive law governs how the facts of the case should be handled and determines the charge for the crime. Substantive law determines the rights in all the court proceeding as well as how a person is expected to behave according to an existing social norm. hence, for a case to be determined and given justice, procedural as well as substantive law determines the different facets of the case where evidence plays an important part to determine truth.
EVIDENCE AND PROCEDURAL LAW:
Procedural law is the branch which governs the process of litigation 4. Process of a trial of criminal/civil laws in India are governed by three pillars:
The Indian Penal Code, 1960 (IPC)
The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973(CrPC) / Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC)
The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (IEA)
Here in this, CrPC or CPC is an exhaustive procedural law for conducting any trial India. This process includes the collection of evidence, interrogation of accused, etc. Sources of evidence can be anything including examination of witnesses to an analysis of inanimate objects. Procedural law includes investigation, where evidence is of utmost importance. The evidence can be electronic as well. Evidence is generally classified as Oral, Documentary and real. Oral evidence can be the statements made by the witnesses in a court. Documents produced before the court of law for inspection is considered as Documentary evidence. In course of judicial proceedings, objects produced in a court are the real evidence. All the three evidence can be produced in the court in order to reach the correct conclusion and based on the extent of the case. Email, text, cell phone recordings, etc are also admissible in the court as evidence.
Evidence is for the purpose of proving or disproving something (the alleged fact) before the court of law. In India, production of “evidence” is regulated by The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, which is one of pillar for conducting trials. Oral evidence is referred to in part III Section 60 whereas Documentary evidence is referred to in Section 3 of the IEA. This section also includes the electronic records after the amendment of the act. Though the types of evidence are directly referred to in the Evidence Act, the CrPC also deals with the mode of recording evidence and Commission for the examination of witnesses in Chapter XXIII Part A and Part B5 respectively. During the proceeding, the statement made by the victim and accused plays the utmost important role as a part of the production of evidence before the court of law to prove or disprove. Written statements, audio/video recordings, photographs, any type of digital media, etc are evidence referred to materials relating to the subject matter of a proceeding. Hence, evidence plays an important role during the proceeding of the court as well as in trials.
EVIDENCE AND SUBSTANTIVE LAW:
After the trial is conducted, evidence in substantive law is used to determine the nature of the case and settle the matter. Elements i.e. substance of the case are defined by the substantive law. Once the hearing of the evidence is presented by the prosecution, and through its own investigation, the grand jury votes, whether the case should be dismissed or indicted. But the suspect is innocent until proven guilty. the decision to charge is largely decided on the evidence against the suspect.
Suppose, a person is accused of a crime, solid evidence is needed in a court of law before reaching a decision. And the arrest of an accused can only happen before/during an investigation for further evidence.
In case of murder, rape, etc, police seek the advice from the Office of Public Prosecutor (OPP) before laying the charges but if there’s not enough evidence, investigation might continue longer. Keeping the views of the victim, laying of charges are decided upon evidence during an investigation, public interest and the legal principles.
Without evidence, it is difficult to conduct the trial and decide the case. It is impossible to prove/disprove the alleged fact or issue under the dispute, prove the accused guilty/non-guilty. Hence, evidence plays an important role at every stage during a trial or let say, in deciding the case. In procedural law, the evidence is used in the inspection of the documents, saving the electronic evidence, etc. In substantive law, the evidence is used in laying the charges against the suspect. Evidence can also tamper while a trial is going on in the court. For that, the prosecutors have to explain it to the court and sometimes that evidence can also be excluded from consideration.
Evidence, EVIDENCE_1 NOUN- DEFINITION, PICTURES, PRONOUNCIATION AND USAGE NOTES | OXFORD ADVANCED LEARNER’S DICTIONARY AT OXFORDLEARNERSDICTIONARIES.COM, https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/evidence_1?q=evidence (last visited 28 May, 2020).
The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, No. 1, Acts of Parliament, 1872 (India).
Evidence, THE LEGAL CONCEPT OF EVIDENCE > NOTES (STANFORD ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY AT PLATO.STANFORD.EDU, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evidence-legal/notes.html (last visited 28 May, 2020).
SALMOND, ON JURIDPRUDENCE 461 (12th ed. 2010).
The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1873, No. 2, Acts of Parliament, 1973 (India).
1 Evidence, EVIDENCE_1 NOUN- DEFINITION, PICTURES, PRONOUNCIATION AND USAGE NOTES | OXFORD ADVANCED LEARNER’S DICTIONARY AT OXFORDLEARNERSDICTIONARIES.COM, https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/evidence_1?q=evidence
2 The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, No. 1, Acts of Parliament, 1872 (India).
3 Evidence, THE LEGAL CONCEPT OF EVIDENCE > NOTES (STANFORD ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY AT PLATO.STANFORD.EDU, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evidence-legal/notes.html
4 SALMOND, ON JURIDPRUDENCE 461 (12th ed. 2010).
5 The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1873, No. 2, Acts of Parliament, 1973 (India).
This article is authored by Kalyani Paunikar, First-Year, B.A. LL.B (Hons.) student at Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai.
Also Read – Admissibility Of Electronic Evidence