This article is written by M.S.Sri Sai Kamalini, a fourth-year student currently pursuing B.A.LLB (Hons) in School of law, SASTRA. This article deals with the various provisions related to public documents and presumption as to documents under the Indian Evidence Act.
The evidence in criminal cases plays an important role in deciding the case and to bring out justice. The Indian Evidence Act accepts two forms of evidence, documentary evidence and oral evidence. According to the Indian Evidence Act, the documents which are produced for the inspection of the court are called documentary evidence. The documentary evidence is of great help and they are very reliable during the process of investigation. The documents are mainly of two types: private document and public document. This article would deal with the presumption as to the documents and their evidential value.
The interpretation clause of the Indian evidence act defines the term document. According to Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, document means any matter expressed or described upon any substance and it can be in various means of letters, figures or marks, or by more than one of those means, intended to be used, or which may be used, for the purpose of recording particular information or matter. There are various examples given for documents in the act like map, plan, caricature and letters. Any words which are printed and lithographed are considered to be documents according to the Indian Evidence Act. Section 74 of the Indian evidence act provides the definition of the term Public document. According to this Section, the following documents are considered public documents:
- The documents forming the acts or records of acts of sovereign authority;
- The documents forming the acts or records of acts of official bodies and tribunals;
- The documents forming the acts or records of acts of various officers like public officers, legislative, judicial officers and executive working in any part of India;
- The public records which are kept in the state of private documents also come under this category.
Every other document which does not come under the above-mentioned category is considered as private documents according to Section 75 of the Indian Evidence Act. Section 76 of the Indian Evidence Act provides the power to public officers to provide certified copies of public documents when it is necessary and when the person has the right to demand copies and ask for the copy of the document.
Presumption as to Documents
Section 79 to Section 90 of the Indian Evidence Act provides various presumptions as to the documents. There are certain presumptions regarding the documentary evidence in this act. According to the Indian Evidence Act, the presumption is of two types. There are certain cases in which the Court “shall presume” and in certain cases, it “may presume”. The terms are defined in Section 4 of the IEA. According to this Section,
- “May presume” means whenever it is mentioned by this Act that the Court may presume a fact, it may either consider such fact as proved, unless and until it is disproved or may call for proof of it.
- “Shall presume” means whenever it is mentioned in this Act that the Court shall presume a fact, it shall consider such fact as proved, unless and until it is disproved.
Presumption as to the Genuineness of Certified Copies
The certified copies are the copies of public documents that are provided by the authorized officer when it is necessary for inspection. Section 79 of the Indian Evidence Act provides the presumption as to the genuineness of these certified copies. According to this Section, the court presumes the certified copy to be genuine when it comes with a valid certificate. The court also presumes that the officer who has signed the documents holds the official character of the designation mentioned in the certificate. The certified copy of the public document must contain a certificate which is provided by the authorized officer that has to mention that it is the true copy of the document and the officer has to sign the certificate with their name and they also have to mention the date and designation. The certificate should also be sealed whenever it is necessary by the authorized officer.
Presumption as to Documents produced as Records of Evidence
Section 80 of the Indian Evidence Act provides the various presumptions regarding the documents which are provided as evidence. The Court presumes that the documents which are produced for inspection are genuine. The court also presumes that any statements as to the circumstances under which it was taken, considered to be made by the person signing it, are true and that such evidence, statement or confession was duly taken by following all the procedures. The documents provided for inspection can be a record or memorandum of the evidence that is provided by a witness during the judicial proceeding before the officer authorized by law to take evidence or it can be a statement or confession that is provided by any prisoner or person who is accused, which taken in accordance with the law and the confession must be signed by the magistrate or any other officer authorized by law.
Presumption as to Gazettes, Newspapers, Private Acts of the Parliament and other Documents
Section 81 of the Indian Evidence Act deals with the presumption regarding Gazettes, newspapers, private Acts of the Parliament. The court presumes the following documents to be genuine, according to this Section:
- The document professed to be the London Gazette, or any Official Gazette, or the Government Gazette of any colony;
- The documents which are a dependency of possession of the British Crown;
- Newspaper or journal;
- Copy of a private Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom which is printed by the Queen’s Printer.
The documents must be kept in the substantial form mentioned in the law and also it must be produced from proper custody. The Court also presumes the Official gazettes kept in the electronic form is genuine if it is kept in the substantial form mentioned in the law.
The maps and plans are also a recognized type of documentary evidence. Section 83 of the Indian Evidence Act provides the various presumptions regarding maps and plans made by the authorities of the government. According to this Section, the maps and plans are presumed to be genuine and accurate if it is made by the authority of the Central or State government.
Presumption as to a Collection of Laws and Reports
Section 84 of the Indian Evidence Act provides various presumptions regarding the laws and reports. According to this Section, the court presumes every book which contains laws and reports of the decisions of the Courts of the country to be genuine if the book is printed or published by the authority of the government.
Presumption as to the Power-of-Attorney
Section 85 of the Evidence Act provides various presumptions regarding the power of attorney. According to this Section, the court shall presume that every document that is considered to be the power of attorney, and that is executed before the authorized officer or Notary Public or any court or before any Magistrate is executed and authenticated.
Presumption as to Books, Maps and Charts
Section 87 of the Indian Evidence Act provides various presumptions regarding the books, maps and charts. The Court presumes that any book which contains any information which contains matters of public or general interest, or any published chart that are in relation with the case or any statements that contain relevant facts which are produced for inspection is written and published by the person mentioned in the book. The court also presumes that the time and place of publication which is mentioned in the book or chart to be true.
Presumption as to Telegraphic Messages
Section 88 provides various presumptions regarding the telegraphic messages. According to the Section, the court presumes “that telegraphic messages to be that a message, which is forwarded from a telegraph office to the person to whom such message which claims to be addressed, is in relation with a message that is delivered for transmission at the office from which the message purports to be sent”. The Section also mentions that the Court does not make any presumption regarding the person by whom such a message was delivered for transmission. The Section is not of any use now as the telegraph services have been stopped by the Indian Government
Presumption as to Electronic Messages
This is a very important Section as a lot of information are transferred in the electronic form in the modern days. Section 88A of the Indian Evidence Act provides various presumptions regarding electronic messages. According to this Section, the Court presumes that an electronic message, which is forwarded by the originator by means of an electronic mail server to the addressee to whom the message claims to be addressed corresponds with the message as fed into his computer for transmission. According to the Section, the terms “addressee” and “originator” has the same meaning as mentioned in the clauses (b) and (za) of sub-section (1) of Section 2 Information Technology Act,2000”.
Presumption as to due Execution of Documents not Produced
Section 89 of the Indian Evidence Act provides various presumptions regarding the due execution of documents not produced. The Court presumes that every document that is called for inspection and the documents are not produced even after the notice period, it is presumed that the documents are attested, stamped and executed in the manner which is prescribed by law.
Presumption as to Documents Thirty years old
Section 90 of the Indian Evidence Act deals with the presumption as to documents that are thirty years old. The Court presumes that any document which is produced for investigation is from proper custody and the signature corresponds to the signature of the person whose custody the document was in. The Court also presumes that any handwriting in the document is the handwriting of the person who has the custody of the document. It is also presumed by the Court that in case if the document attested or executed, that it was duly executed and attested by the persons by whom it professes to be executed and attested. The term proper custody means that the document is with the care of the person and in a place where it would naturally be. For example, ‘A’ has been in possession of a certain property for a long time. He produces from his custody deeds the various documents relating to the land showing his titles to it and the custody is held to be proper.
Presumption as to the Electronic Record of Five years old
Section 90A of the Indian Evidence Act provides the various presumptions regarding electronic records of five years old. According to this Section, the Court presumes that when any electronic record that is above five years old and it is procured from the proper custody for investigation. It is presumed that the digital signature corresponds to the particular person whose custody the record is or the signature belongs to the person who has authorized it. The term proper custody means that the electronic record is with the care of the person and in a place where it would naturally be. It is also mentioned in the Section that no custody is improper if it is proved that the custody is of legitimate origin in the particular case to render such origin possible.
The Sections regarding presumptions is a very important part of the Indian Evidence Act as they help in the investigation. The presumptions make the investigation easier and fast. The Court has to follow all the presumptions and it can only change its notion on presumptions only when it is necessary. The documents have a lot of evidentiary value and it is important to investigate them properly and also save the Court’s valuable time at the same time. Thus the presumptions regarding the documents is a very essential part of the Indian Evidence Act.
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