In this blog post, Anubhav Pandey talks about whether Voice Recording Can be used as Evidence in Courts in India.
Have you ever been threatened of criminal prosecution by someone having your audio recorded on their phone? Or on the contrary, do you want to take a person down in the court of law on the basis of audio recordings?
Here is a question to think about.
Does audio recordings have any evidentiary value in the court? If yes, what are the factors which determine its genuineness?
Here is a detailed article on whether a voice recording can be used as an evidence in court in India.
Changing Scenario – A Digital India
There is a heavy dependency of people on digital devices. These devices have helped to open a new era of jurisprudence. The portable devices are very helpful in recording things. Cases are flooded with the question of whether these electronic recordings (or a voice recording) are, from the point of view of the evidence, admissible or not.
Is Voice Recording Admissible in Court?
Oral admissions as to the contents of electronic records are not relevant unless the genuineness of the electronic record produced is in question. Therefore, the first prerequisite for admission of any electronic record is its genuineness.
Its genuineness is in itself based on various factors –
- Whether the evidence is relevant to the facts of the case or not.
- How it is stored.
- How long had it been since the record is kept in such electronic form and the other miscellaneous factors with respect to the genuineness of the electronic record.
What is an Electronic Record?
As per the provision of IT Act, electronic record means data, record or data generated, image or sound stored, received or sent in an electronic form or micro film or computer generated micro fiche.
Therefore, an audio recording comes under the ambit of electronic record and passes the first hurdle of its admissibility.
At times electronic records are taken into consideration as a relevant fact also.
An entry in any electronic record, stating a fact in issue or relevant fact, and made by a public servant in the discharge of his official duty, or by any other person in performance of a duty specially enjoined by the law of the country in which such electronic record is kept, is itself a relevant fact.
Therefore, if a police officer records something electronically, it becomes a source of fact as per the Indian Evidence Act.
When any statement of which evidence is given forms part of a longer statement, contained in part of electronic record, evidence shall be given of so much and no more of the electronic record, as the Court considers necessary in that particular case to the full understanding of the nature and effect of the statement, and of the circumstances under which it was made.
Laws Regarding Electronic Records
Laws regarding electronic record and their admissibility are properly laid down in Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act. The contents of electronic records may be proved in accordance with the provisions of section 65B. Therefore, in order to understand whether a voice recording can be used as an evidence in courts in India, an understanding of section 65B of Indian Evidence Act is necessary.
- Any information contained in an electronic record which is recorded or copied in optical or magnetic media produced by a computer shall be deemed to be also a document if the conditions mentioned here are satisfied.
- If the conditions are satisfied then such recordings are admissible in any proceedings without further proof or production of the original, as evidence of any contents of the original, or of any fact stated of which direct evidence would be admissible.
The conditions are–
- The source containing the information was produced by the computer during the period over which the computer was used regularly to store or process information for the purposes of any activities regularly carried on over that period by the person having lawful control over the use of the computer.
- During the said period, information of the kind contained in the electronic record or of the kind from which the information so contained is derived was regularly fed into the computer in the ordinary course of the said activities.
- Throughout the material part of the said period, the computer was operating properly or, if not, then in respect of any period in which it was not operating properly or was out of operation during that part of the period was not such as to affect the electronic record or the accuracy of its contents.
- The information contained in the electronic record reproduces or is derived from such information fed into the computer in the ordinary course of the said activities.
The Court shall presume the genuineness of every electronic record purporting to be the Official Gazette or purporting to be electronic record directed by any law to be kept by any person if such electronic record is kept substantially in the form required by law and is produced from proper custody.
In any proceedings involving a secure electronic record, the Court shall presume unless contrary, is proved, that the secure electronic record has not been altered since the specific point of time to which the secure status relates. E.g. in cases of bank frauds, digital track records such as time and date.
When Electronic Records are 5-Years Old
- Electronic records are said to be in proper custody if they are in the place in which, and under the care of the person with whom, they naturally should be but no custody is improper if it is proved to have had a legitimate origin or the circumstances of the particular case are such as to render such an origin probable.
- Where any electronic record, purporting or proved to be five years old, is produced from any custody which the Court in the particular case considers proper, the Court may presume that the digital signature which purports to be the digital signature of any particular person was so affixed by him or any person authorised by him in this behalf.
No one shall be compelled to produce documents in his possession or electronic records under his control, which any other person would be entitled to refuse to produce if they were in his possession or control unless such last-mentioned person consents to their production.
Judicial Decision on Admissibility of Recorded Evidence
Tape recorded conversation is admissible provided –
- Firstly, the conversation is relevant to the matters in issue.
- Secondly, there is an identification of the voice.
- Thirdly, the accuracy of the tape recorded conversation is proved by eliminating the possibility of erasing the tape record.
A contemporaneous tape record of a relevant conversation is a relevant fact and is admissible under Section 8 of the Evidence Act. It is res gestae. It is also comparable to a photograph of a relevant incident. The tape recorded conversation is, therefore, a relevant fact and is admissible under Section 7 of the Evidence Act.
A tape-recorded evidence is admissible provided that the originality and the authenticity of the tape are free from doubt.
Likewise, Justice Sabyasachi Mukharji held that about the acceptance and reliability of evidence on tape-recording, one should proceed very cautiously and that in this connection on the analogy of mutilated document if the tape-recording is not coherent or distinct or clear, this should not be relied upon.
- The voice of the speaker must be duly identified by the maker of the record or by others who recognize his voice. In other words, it manifestly follows as a logical corollary that the first condition for the admissibility of such a statement is to identify the voice of the speaker.
Where the voice has been denied by the maker it will require very strict proof to determine whether or not it was really the voice of the speaker.
- The accuracy of the tape-recorded statement has to be proved by the maker of the record by satisfactory evidence— direct or circumstantial.
- Every possibility of tampering with or erasure of a part of a tape-recorded statement must be ruled out otherwise it may render the said statement out of context and, therefore, inadmissible.
- The statement must be relevant according to the rules of Evidence Act.
- The recorded cassette must be carefully sealed and kept in safe or official custody.
- The voice of the speaker should be clearly audible and not lost or distorted by other sounds or disturbances.
What if there is an Electronic Voice Record?
In recent cases, various courts have given their approval to voice recording as an admissible evidence. Court have given their assent on admissibility as an evidence to conversations recorded on phone using a call recording app or a sound recording app provided certain conditions are fulfilled.
These conditions are laid down in Ram Singh & Ors vs Col. Ram Singh as –
- The voice of the speaker in the recording must be duly recognized by the people who was making the recording or the voice of the speaker in the recording whose admissibility is in question must be recognized by anyone involved in the case.
- The recording in question must be authentic and this has to be proved by the person presenting the evidence through sufficient means.
- The whole conversation will have to be presented before the court. No tampering or erasing of even a microsecond is admissible. The court looks into the whole conversation as one and decides according to it only.
- The said statements must be relevant and in accordance with the facts of the case.
- The recorded device in which the voice recording is stored must be sealed and kept in safe custody.
- Voice should be clear and without any disturbance.
A voice recording provides a clear perspective of the view in the cases of coercion, bribery, threat or in any situation where the person has been mentally tortured via speech.
What do you think- Should Voice Recording be admissible in Courts? How it’ll affect the process of Justice? Drop your views in the Comments section & Feel free to Share.
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References – Section 65B, Indian Evidence Act
 Section 85B
 1973) 1 SCC 471
 (1970) 2 SCC 340
 1985 Supp SCC 611