How To Prove Private Documents?


A document is generally a piece of paper with written information; it could serve as an official record or as evidence. Section 3 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, describes document as any information described, etched or presented upon any surface by using letters, figures, symbols or different marks, or by using more than one of those means, desired to be used, or which may be used, for the purpose of recording any matter or event, for example a written document, Maps, Caricatures, Lithographs, Photographs, etc. Documents are generally presented in courts as evidences.

Types of Documents

These documents could be of two types: Public document and Private document.

1. Public Documents

According to section 74[1], documents containing the records of the highest authority or the authority of the sovereign, official government bodies, tribunals, public officers, legislative, judicial and executive, [of any part of India], or a foreign country are considered to be public documents. Also private documents kept as public record, come under public documents.

2. Private Documents

Section 75[2] states that all other documents except the ones mentioned in section 74 are Private documents. These could be personal letters, contract between people, matter published in newspapers, books, etc.

A private cannot become a public one just because it is filed in a court; it only becomes a public document when it is a record of a public officer or court.

Types of Evidence

There are also two types of evidences: Primary evidence and Secondary Evidence.

The primary evidences are usually the original documents and evidences while the secondary evidences are certified copies, photocopies, photographs, oral description of the original evidence by the person who himself has seen it.

Proving Private Documents

The most essential information to consider here is that private documents can only be proved as primary evidence; hence only original private documents are admissible in the court of law. Neither photocopies nor other different copies of private documents are enough to prove the genuineness of it and cannot be presented in a judicial proceeding apart from few exceptions[3].

Furthermore, in the case of Smt. Rekha Rana and Ors. vs Smt. Ratnashree Jain, the bench held that a private document cannot be considered as an evidence until and unless its existence and execution is admitted by the member of the opposite party, i.e. against whom that document is being presented, or it is established through proofs that the document was duly executed. This could be proved through the signatures or any kind of mark being affixed to that document as a symbol of execution by the person who is claiming to have executed it. This could be done through[4],

  1. Examining and cross-checking the parties involved in the execution of document,
  2. Considering a person under whose supervision or presence the “mark” of execution was affixed,
  3. referring the document to a handwriting expert and analyzing such expert (generally needed when the signatures are denied by an executant); or
  4. questioning and considering someone familiar with the way of writing and signature of the person who is involved and supposed to have written/signed the document; or
  5. requesting the help of the Court to look into the matter and draw the similarities between the signature of the person who has supposedly executed the document with some admitted and verified signature of the same person; or
  6. Establishing the acceptance by the person who executed it,that he indeed signed the documents.

In case the original documents have been lost and cannot be produced within reasonable time then it becomes necessary to prove the loss of the original documents, moreover if the original document is in the possession of the party against which it is an evidence, then a proper procedure must be followed and a notice must be issued to that party to produce the documents, if the party refuses then only the court must resort to secondary evidence, which must again be proved through various steps to be as accurate as original[5]. It will still be considered as a disputed document and it will be required to prove that in what manner and situation the copy of the original was made, it might also require cross-examination of the witnesses over the documentary evidence.


The public documents are more reliable and generally preferred over the private documents, While using the private documents as evidence it is necessary to present the original documents in any judicial proceeding, but if somehow the originals could not be produced, then there are still few exceptions which can make its copies admissible however it requires a lot of proofs for its validity and it could still remain a disputed document.

[1] The Indian Evidence Act, 1872

[2] The Indian Evidence Act, 1872




This article is authored by Satrajit Somavanshi, First-Year,  B.A. LL.B (Hons.) student at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law

Also Read – How To Prove Documents In Court?

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