What Is The Difference Between Proof And Evidence?


Proof and Evidence are two identical or similar words that are used in our regular vocabulary. However there is a fine thread between the two that distinguishes them from each other. Evidence refers to certain facts or material that helps to establish existence of a fact where as Proof is sum of evidence. The types, standards and differences are given in the article further. However, for a layman these words can be used interchangeably.

Meaning of Proof

Oxford dictionary defines it as “evidence or argument establishing a fact or the truth of a statement. [1]Merriam Webster defines proof, “the process or an instance of establishing the validity of a statement especially by derivation from other statements in accordance with principles of reasoning Proof is more conclusive than Evidence. It is sum of all evidence that establishes a fact to be True and Valid. In short, Proof is summation of evidences i.e. Pieces of Material and fact that sum up a logical argument and arrive at a concrete conclusion.

Standard of Proof:

According to[2] Merriam Webster Dictionary, the level of certainty and the degree of evidence necessary to establish proof in a criminal or civil proceeding. It refers to an obligation of a person responsible for proving the case. There exists different Standard of Proof for Different Circumstances. There are  three primary standards of proof which are as follows:

  1. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
  2. Preponderance of the evidence
  3. Clear and convincing evidence.

1. Proof Beyond Reasonable Doubt

This standard of proof is essential element in Criminal Prosecutions. Further, This standard of proof is specifically required by the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the federal United States Constitution. The Supreme Court of United Nations is in support of the very fact that it  is much worse to convict an innocent person than to allow a guilty one to go free as it is considered with the person’s life and freedom. It is the duty of the Prosecutor to prove each element of the crime to the Jury beyond reasonable doubt in order to convict the defendant.

There should be no existence of doubt. It further includes two more sub-points viz. Burden of Production and Burden of Persuasion. Burden of Production includes the duty of the Prosecutor to place a considerate amount of evidence to prove the fact true. If the Judges are not satisfied with the evidence they can pass a verdict in certain favor of Defendant. The burden of persuasion requires the prosecution to convince the jury of the veracity of each element.

2. Preponderance of the Evidence

This standard of proof is used in civil proceedings. This standard means that it is more likely than not that the facts are not the same as one of the parties claim. Considering civil cases, the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff showing the very fact that there is existence of all elements given in the said case. While delivering the Judgment the Jury Considers all the evidence presented. The Bench can use their own judgment in determining the credibility of each evidence presented and how much each evidence weighs in order of proving the fact.
The Jury cannot be convinced of either the Plaintiff or Defendant’s side. This standard is used in civil cases, but it can also be used in ceratin aspects of criminal law too.

3. Clear and Convincing Evidence

This standard of Proof means that the evidence presented by either of the parties present during the trial, must be highly and substantially more likely to be true than not and the Trier of fact must have a firm belief or conviction in its factuality. This standard is applicable to civil cases or some aspects of criminal cases too. Some states use this standard to determine whether a search was voluntary or not.

Meaning of Evidence

The word Evidence has been derived from Latin Word “evidentia” which means ‘obvious to the eye or mind. Merriam-Webster dictionary provides a basic definition which says: “something which shows that something else exists or is true.” The Oxford dictionary defines evidence as “available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid”. [3]According to Indian Evidence Act, 1872 Section 3 defines Evidence as:

“Evidence” means and includes–

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)[All documents including electronic records produced for the inspection of the Court]; such documents are called documentary evidence.

“Proved.”— A fact is said to be proved when, after considering the matters before it, the Court; either believes it to exist, or considers its existence so probable that a prudent man ought, under the circumstances of the particular case, to act upon the supposition that it exists.

“Disproved.” — A fact is said to be disproved when, after considering the matters before it, the Court either believes that it does not exist, or considers its non-existence so probable that a prudent man ought, under the circumstances of the particular case, to act upon the supposition that it does not exist.

“Not proved.” — A fact is said not to be proved when it is neither proved nor disproved.

Types of Evidence:

There are certain evidences that have been mentioned in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 which are as follows:

  1. Documentary Evidence
  2. Oral Evidence
  3. Primary Evidence
  4. Secondary Evidence
  5. Direct Evidence
  6. Circumstantial or Indirect Evidence

1. Documentary Evidence:

Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 provides provisions regarding the Documentary Evidence. According to this provision all the documents presented in the Court for Inspection are called Documentary Evidence

2. Oral Evidence:

Section 60 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 provides provisions regarding the Oral Evidence which are as follows. Fact or material that witness records in his/her statement regarding the truth and Validity of the Facts are called Oral Evidence. It includes that the witness has seen or heard or experienced certain facts of the case

3. Primary Evidence:

Section 62 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 provides provisions regarding the Primary Evidence. It is that proof which in any condition gives an important disclosure or hint in a disputed fact. With the help of a Documentary Evidence it can produce original document for the Inspection of the Court. In Lucas v. Williams Privy Council held “Primary Evidence is evidence which the law requires to be given first and secondary evidence is the evidence which may be given in the absence of that better evidence when a proper explanation of its absence has been given.”

4. Secondary Evidence:

Section 63 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 provides provisions regarding the Secondary Evidence. Evidence which is produced in absence of Primary Evidence is known as Secondary Evidence. It may include photocopies, Tape- Recordings etc. Allowing secondary evidence is not illegal; Sobha Rani v. Ravikumar, AIR 1999 P&H 21. Tape-recorded statements are admissible in evidence. K.S. Mohan v. Sandhya Mohan, AIR 1993 Mad 59. Certified copies of money lender’s licences are admissible in evidence.

5. Direct Evidence:

Direct Evidence constitutes a major part in a trial. Direct Evidence is whereby the Witnesses expresses in his/her statement that he/she was present at the Crime and had seen the crime being committed while describing the offence.

6. Circumstantial Evidence or Indirect Evidence

Circumstantial Evidence is evidence which is used when there the crime has not been witnessed by anyone. It basically relies on to related series of facts that attempts to prove facts in an issue. For Example, Fingerprints in a Crime Scene.

Difference Between Proof and Evidence:

The difference between Proof and Evidence is as follows:

     Proof Evidence
Proof is a sum of Evidence that proves a fact to be true Evidence is material or information that a fact may be true
Proof is Conclusive in Nature Evidence is Suggestive in Nature
Proof has 3 primary standards of proof which the prosecutor has to prove in order to convict the defendant guilty There are many types of evidence which are referred according to the situation
Proof is a firm confirmation about the fact being true  after scrutinizing evidence Evidence are raw pieces of Information or Material that can be approved or disapproved.


Thus it can be concluded that evidence and proof are words than are identical in nature and can be used interchangeably. There is a fine line that distinguishes them.  The types, Standards and Difference of these words are given in the Article above.

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/proof

[2] https://www.merriam-webster.com/legal/standard%20of%20proof

[3] https://www.indiacode.nic.in/handle/123456789/2188?locale=en

This Article Written by Iram Kacchi,  of   A.K.K New Law Academy.

Also Read – Difference Between Direct Evidence And Circumstantial Evidence

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