Best Evidence Rule - Sec 91 -100 of Indian Evidence Act

26 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2020

Date Written: April 1, 2013

Abstract

The best evidence rule is a rule in law which states that when evidence such as a document or recording is presented, only the original will be accepted unless there is a legitimate reason that the original cannot be used. This rule has its origins in the 1800s. With the advent of electronic communications, there has been some argument about how the best evidence rule should be applied, and whether or not it is relevant.

The idea behind the best evidence rule is that the best evidence is the original evidence. If someone writes a letter, for example, and someone else makes a copy, the copy may have errors if it was made by hand, or the copying process might somehow interfere with the letter. For example, a poor photocopy could obscure details of the handwriting, while a digital copy might alter the color and could also be manipulated by someone with skills.

For this reason, if it is at all possible, courts want to see the original evidence. If the original is destroyed or inaccessible for some reason, a copy will be accepted. However, the copy must be proved by a witness who can testify as to the contents and confirm that it is an accurate copy of the original. In the letter example above, for example, a lawyer might call upon the person who wrote the letter to ask if the copy is indeed a copy of the letter that person wrote, and to confirm that the copy has not been manipulated.

The term “best evidence rule” is misleading. The rule applies only to writings, recordings, and photographs – and only when proving their contents. There is no general rule requiring the “best evidence.” A party generally is not required to introduce real evidence in order to prove its case.

The nature of writings gives rise to their being singled out for special treatment. The copying of writing by hand is especially susceptible to the introduction of inaccuracies, and even a minor inaccuracy may have significant legal consequences – for example, in wills, deeds, and contracts

Sections 91 to 100 are based upon the principle that the best evidence must always be given, and the acceptance of the fact that no matter how good a person’s memory may be, the best evidence of the content of a document is the document itself. The principle does not demand the largest amount of evidence – it simply requires the best evidence and since this is documentary evidence, oral evidence is excluded. And this paper deals with these sections in a concise and precise manner.

Keywords: Best Evidence Rule, Evidence Act, Civil Procedure, Proof of written documents

JEL Classification: K10, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Arora, Himanshu, Best Evidence Rule - Sec 91 -100 of Indian Evidence Act (April 1, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3534022 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3534022
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