Oral Evidence and Rule of Hearsay

Introduction

Evidence is primarily divided into two types, One is documentary evidence and second is oral evidence. Oral Evidence is defined under Section 3 and Chapter IV ‘Of Oral Evidence’ at sections 59 and 60 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872. Where section 3 gives the definition of the oral evidence Chapter IV lays down as to how a fact may be proved by oral evidence.

Description of Oral Evidence

Oral Evidence is the evidence which is confined to words spoken by mouth but it must be understood that if a fact may be proved by the oral evidence, it is not necessary that the statement of the witness should be oral, it can be any method of communication as a deaf may testify by signs or by writing. And if the Oral Evidence is worthy of credit then it is sufficient without documentary evidence to prove a fact or case.

Provisions under Evidence Act 

Oral Evidence is defined under Section 3 under “Evidence” and its procedure is mentioned under Section 59 and Section 60 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. 

Section 3 Interpretation Clauses “Evidence”

By carefully reading the definition we must understand that the oral Evidence means a statement made by a witness before a court in relation to a matter of fact under inquiry. The word “Oral” is itself described as something spoken or expressed by mouth.

Section 59 Proof of facts by oral evidence

Section 59 lays down that where written documents exist, thay be shall be produced as evidence of their own contents and no oral evidence is presented to prove anything wrong in the document. All facts except the contents of documents may be proved by oral evidence. 

Section 60 Oral Evidence must be direct

Section 60 lays down that oral evidence must be direct. By direct it is meant that 

(1) If evidence is to be led about a fact which can be heard, a witness must be produced who says that he heard it.

(2) If the evidence is to be led about the fact which can be seen, a witness must be produced who says he saw it.

(3) If the evidence is to be led about the fact which can be perceived by any other sense or manner, a witness must be produced who says he perceived himself by that sense or in that manner.

(4) If the evidence is to be given about an opinion or as ground on which opinion is to be held, the witness produced must say that he holds that opinion and on these grounds.

Rule of Hearsay 

The Meaning of the word ‘hearsay’ is used in various senses, at times it means whatever a person has heard, and sometimes it means whatever a person declares on information given by someone else, all depends on the medium of information received. The term hearsay is used in reference to that which is written as well as which is spoken. Rule of Hearsay denotes that kind of evidence which does not derive the value solely from the credit to be given to the witness himself, but rests on part of the competency of some other person. Hearsay Evidence is that evidence which comes indirectly, that is to say which comes not from the knowledge of the person who deposes it but through some other person. 

The evidence of a statement made to a person who himself is not called as a witness may or may not be hearsay. It is hearsay and inadmissible when it is proposed to establish by the truth of what is contained in the statement by examining some other person. It is not hearsay and is admissible when it is proposed to establish by the evidence, not the truth of the statement but the fact that the statement was made.  

Exceptions to Rule of Hearsay

The Correct rule as to hearsay therefore is that, statements, oral or written reported to have been made by persons not called as witnesses are not admissible as evidence. The Rule of Hearsay is always subjected to certain exceptions. These Exceptions are found in Section 17 to 39 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872 under the following heads-

(1) Admissions (Section 17)

(2) Confessions (Section 24)

(3) Certain Statements made by persons dead or who cannot be called as witnesses which include; Statements relating to pedigree (Section 32)

a. Dying Declaration (Section 32/1)

b. Statements made in due course of business (Section 32/2)

c. Statements against interest (Section 32/3)

d. Statements giving opinion as to public right or custom (Section 32/4)

(5) Previous deposition of a witness who is dead or cannot be called as a witness (Section 33)

(6) Entries in books of account kept in the course of business (Section 34)

(7) Entries in public registers, records and electronic records, maps and charts etc. (Section 35)

Relevant Case Laws on Oral Evidence

  • Munir Ahmad v. State of Rajasthan AIR 1989 SC 705
    • Supreme Court of India

In this case it was held that if a person is a listed witness in a case and he is alive then his evidence in judicial proceedings must be recorded by calling the person to the stand, it cannot be substituted by an affidavit except wherein any special provisions permit it. 

  • State v. Rajal Anand 2008
    • Delhi District Court

In this case it was held that Oral Evidence in form of testimony given by witness was held to be inadmissible on the ground of Hearsay as the information on which the witness testified his testimony was from another person and that person was not examined by the prosecution. The Court decided that such testimony of the witness is not admissible and hearsay particularly in the light of the fact and circumstances of the case.

  • Dr Sanjay Gajanan Chivate vs Dr Ramesh Yadu Kadam & Anr 2015
    • Bombay High Court

In the present case, the High court observed that it goes without saying that oral evidence must be direct in all cases. It is a cardinal Rule of evidence that the best available evidence should be brought before the Court. 

Conclusion

In the end, it must be presumably understood that the importance of oral evidence in the court has risen and judgments are passed on the basis of the oral evidence if the court is satisfied and it is proven beyond reasonable doubt. With the growing world of technology in the country, the oral evidence of the experts and the users of the technology are considered crucial parts of the evidence law which has also narrowed the gap between the oral evidence and the documentary evidence.

Reference

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