It’s all about the words
‘Elementary my dear Watson’ is a well-known quote amongst Sherlock fans as well as fans of Benedict Cumberbatch’s British accent. But what exactly is this elementary component? It’s the smallest of detail, the evidence that makes the closure of a case.
The courts in India have also taken cognizance about the importance of evidence and hence defined them under Section 3 of Indian Evidence Act. For easier disposal of cases and to ensure that justice is served, the courts have made a few tweaks and made oral evidence an important part of criminal proceedings.
What’s with the oral?
In legal terms, the meaning of oral evidence is defined under evidence in Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act as:
- All statements that are required to be submitted by witnesses in relation to the fact of the matter in front of the courts
Moreover, Section 59 of the Indian Evidence Act reads as ‘all facts, apart from the contents of a document or electronic records shall be considered as oral evidence’. When it comes to recording statements, most of the evidence is given orally; hence everything in a way is oral evidence. Even if a witness cannot communicate orally, whatever they say in writing or any other format to the court will still fall under the category of oral evidence. The oral evidence of a witness cannot be dismissed on the grounds of non-production of medical evidence. For example, if the witness/victim is a person whose throat has been slit and she can point out to the accused, then her statement would still fall under the category of oral evidence.
Courts in India are well aware about the fact that oral evidence is far less satisfactory than documentary one. But that in no way can be grounds for the invalidation of oral evidence. To make sure that oral evidence is not misused and does not hamper the delivery of justice, a few guidelines have been laid down-
- The oral evidence needs to be consistent with the circumstances, whether it stands true and does not deviate during times of cross-examination
- In case the oral evidence pertains to a fact that has been seen, then it is the witness who needs to have seen the occurrence and cannot give an oral statement based on hearsay
- If the court finds it so necessary, then proper documents supporting the oral evidence will have to procured and submitted
The purview of evidence has been further elaborated by two new acts in the Indian legal sphere-Information Technology Act (2013) and Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. Information Technology Act, 2000 broadened the term ‘evidence’ by including electronic records as evidence that needs to be submitted to the Court. Evidence under Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was in a way victory for women victims for their characters could no longer be questioned under the guise of evidence.
Given the growing importance of oral evidence, the Bombay High Court ruled that oral evidence can also be used for the settlement of criminal cases. As long as it is ‘proof’, beyond reasonable doubt oral evidence can certainly set the pace for the proceedings of a criminal trial.
As far as evidence goes, oral evidence is gaining importance, making it a tedious work for most courts. But oral evidence and its significance does not seem to be going out of style or the courtrooms any time soon.
Oral evidence is certainly a tricky maze to maneuver. But we can certainly clear out a few doubts for you once you visit our website