Section 61. Proof of contents of documents—
The contents of documents may be proved either by primary or by secondary evidence.
Section 62: Primary evidence—
Primary evidence means the document itself produced for the inspection of the court.
Explanation 1—Where a document is executed in several parts, each part is primary evidence of the document.
Where a document is executed in counterpart, each counterpart being executed by one or some of the parties only, each counterpart is primary evidence as against the parties executing it.
Explanation 2—Where a number of documents are all made by one uniform process, as in the case of printing, lithography, or photography, each is primary evidence of the contents of the rest; but where they are all copies of a common original, they are not primary evidence of the contents of the original.
Section 63: Secondary evidence—
Secondary evidence means and includes—
(1) certified copies given under the provisions hereinafter contained;
(2) copies made from the original by mechanical processes which in themselves insure the accuracy of the copy, and copies compared with such copies;
(3) copies made from or compared with the original;
(4) counterparts of documents as against the parties who did not execute them;
(5) oral accounts of the contents of a document given by some person who has himself seen it.
Section 64: Proof of documents by primary evidence—
Documents must be proved by primary evidence except in the cases hereinafter mentioned.
Section 65: Cases in which secondary evidence relating to documents may be given—
Secondary evidence may be given of the existence, condition or contents of a document in the following cases—
(a) when the original is shown or appears to be in the possession or power—
of the person against whom the document is sought to be proved, or of any person out of reach of, or not subject to, the process of the Court, or
of any person legally bound to produce it,
and when, after the notice mentioned in Section 66, such person does not produce it;
(b) when the existence, condition or contents of the original have been proved to be admitted in writing by the person against whom it is proved or by his representative in interest;
(c) when the original has been destroyed or lost, or when the party offering evidence of its contents cannot, for any other reason not arising from his own default or neglect, produce it in reasonable time;
(d) when the original is of such a nature as not to be easily movable;
(e) when the original is a public document within the meaning of Section 74;
(f) when the original is a document of which a certified copy is permitted by this Act, or by any other law in force in India, to be given in evidence;
(g) when the originals consist of numerous accounts or other documents which cannot conveniently be examined in Court, and the fact to be proved is the general result of the whole collection.
In cases (a), (c) and (d), any secondary evidence of the contents of the document is admissible.
In case (b), the written admission is admissible.
In case (e) or (f), a certified copy of the document, but no other kind of secondary evidence, is admissible.
In case (g), evidence may be given as to the general result of the documents by any person who has examined them, and who is skilled in the examination of such documents.
Section 65-A: Special provisions as to evidence relating to electronic record—
The contents of electronic records may be proved in accordance with the provisions of Section 65-B.
Section 65-B: Admissibility of electronic records—
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, any information contained in an electronic record which is printed on a paper, stored, recorded or copied in optical or magnetic media produced by a computer (hereinafter referred to as the computer output) shall be deemed to be also a document, if the conditions mentioned in this section are satisfied in relation to the information and computer in question and shall be 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 therein of which direct evidence would be admissible.
(2) The conditions referred to in sub-section (1) in respect of a computer output shall be the following, namely—
(a) the computer output 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;
(b) 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;
(c) 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; and
(d) 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.
(3) Where over any period, the function of storing or processing information for the purposes of any activities regularly carried on over that period as mentioned in clause (a) of sub-section (2) was regularly performed by computers, whether—
(a) by a combination of computers operating over that period; or
(b) by different computers operating in succession over that period; or
(c) by different combinations of computers operating in succession over that period; or
(d) in any other manner involving the successive operation over that period, in whatever order, of one or more computers and one or more combinations of computers,
all the computers used for that purpose during that period shall be treated for the purposes of this section as constituting a single computer; and references in this section to a computer shall be construed accordingly.
(4) In any proceedings where it is desired to give a statement in evidence by virtue of this section, a certificate doing any of the following things, that is to say,—
(a) identifying the electronic record containing the statement and describing the manner in which it was produced;
(b) giving such particulars of any device involved in the production of that electronic record as may be appropriate for the purpose of showing that the electronic record was produced by a computer;
(c) dealing with any of the matters to which the conditions mentioned in sub-section (2) relate,
and purporting to be signed by a person occupying a responsible official position in relation to the operation of the relevant device or the management of the relevant activities (whichever is appropriate) shall be evidence of any matter stated in the certificate; and for the purposes of this sub-section it shall be sufficient for a matter to be stated to the best of the knowledge and belief of the person stating it.
(5) For the purposes of this section,—
(a) information shall be taken to be supplied to a computer if it is supplied thereto in any appropriate form and whether it is so supplied directly or (with or without human intervention) by means of any appropriate equipment;
(b) whether in the course of activities carried on by any official, information is supplied with a view to its being stored or processed for the purposes of those activities by a computer operated otherwise than in the course of those activities, that information, if duly supplied to that computer, shall be taken to be supplied to it in the course of those activities;
(c) a computer output shall be taken to have been produced by a computer whether it was produced by it directly or (with or without human intervention) by means of any appropriate equipment.
Explanation—For the purposes of this section any reference to information being derived from other information shall be a reference to its being derived therefrom by calculation, comparison or any other process.
Section 66: Rules as to notice to produce—
Secondary evidence of the contents of the documents referred to in Section 65, clause (a), shall not be given unless the party proposing to give such secondary evidence has previously given to the party in whose possession or power the document is, or to his attorney or pleader, such notice to produce it as is prescribed by law; and if no notice is prescribed by law, then such notice as the Court considers reasonable under the circumstances of the case:
Provided that such notice shall not be required in order to render secondary evidence admissible in any of the following cases, or in any other case in which the Court thinks fit to dispense with it—
(1) when the document to be proved is itself a notice;
(2) when, from the nature of the case, the adverse party must know that he will be required to produce it;
(3) when it appears or is proved that the adverse party has obtained possession of the original by fraud or force;
(4) when the adverse party or his agent has the original in Court;
(5) when the adverse party or his agent has admitted the loss of the document;
(6) when the person in possession of the document is out of reach of, or not subject to, the process of the Court.
Section 67: Proof of signature and handwriting of person alleged to have signed or written document produced—
If a document is alleged to be signed or to have been written wholly or in part by any person, the signature or the handwriting of so much of the document as is alleged to be in that person’s handwriting must be proved to be in his handwriting.
Section 67-A: Proof as to electronic signature—
Except in the case of a secure electronic signature, if the electronic signature of any subscriber is alleged to have been affixed to an electronic record the fact that such electronic signature is the electronic signature of the subscriber must be proved.
Section 68: Proof of execution of document required by law to be attested—
If a document is required by law to be attested, it shall not be used as evidence until one attesting witness at least has been called for the purpose of proving its execution, if there be an attesting witness alive, and subject to the process of the Court and capable of giving evidence:
Provided that it shall not be necessary to call an attesting witness in proof of the execution of any document, not being a will, which has been registered in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Registration Act, 1908 (16 of 1908), unless its execution by the person by whom it purports to have been executed is specifically denied.
Section 69: Proof where no attesting witness found.—
If no such attesting witness can be found, or if the document purports to have been executed in the United Kingdom, it must be proved that the attestation of one attesting witness at least is in his handwriting, and that the signature of the person executing the document is in the handwriting of that person.
Section 70: Admission of execution by party to attested document.—
The admission of a party to an attested document of its execution by himself shall be sufficient proof of its execution as against him, though it be a document required by law to be attested.
Section 71: Proof when attesting witness denies the execution.—
If the attesting witness denies or does not recollect the execution of the document, its execution may be proved by other evidence.
Section 72: Proof of document not required by law to be attested.—
An attested document not required by law to be attested may be proved as if it was unattested.
Section 73: Comparison of signature, writing or seal with others admitted or proved—
In order to ascertain whether a signature, writing, or seal is that of the person by whom it purports to have been written or made, any signature, writing or seal admitted or proved to the satisfaction of the Court to have been written or made by that person may be compared with the one which is to be proved, although that signature, writing, or seal has not been produced or proved for any other purpose.
The Court may direct any person present in Court to write any words or figures for the purpose of enabling the Court to compare the words or figures so written with any words or figures alleged to have been written by such person.
This section applies also, with any necessary modifications, to finger-impressions.
Section 73-A: Proof as to verification of digital signature—
In order to ascertain whether a digital signature is that of the person by whom it purports to have been affixed, the Court may direct—
(a) that person or the Controller or the Certifying Authority to produce the Digital Signature Certificate;
(b) any other person to apply the public key listed in the Digital Signature Certificate and verify the digital signature purported to have been affixed by that person.
Explanation—For the purposes of this section, “Controller” means the Controller appointed under sub-section (1) of Section 17 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
IMPORTANT CASE LAWS
1. Registered Document proof :
Om Prakash v. Shanti Devi, (2015) 4 SCC 601 : “…..registration of documents does not per se, ipso facto, render it impervious to challenge or and make its reception automatic in curial proceedings……”
2. Admissibility of Xerox Copies :
Ram Suresh Singh v. Prabhat Singh, (2009) 6 SCC 681 : “………We may not consider the certificate granted by the Principal of the latter school as only a xerox copy thereof was filed inasmuch as the original having not been produced, the same was inadmissible in evidence………”
3. Safeguards under Section 65-B and their necessity:
Anvar P.V. v. P.K. Basheer, (2014) 10 SCC 473 : “It is further clarified that the person need only to state in the certificate that the same is to the best of his knowledge and belief. Most importantly, such a certificate must accompany the electronic record like computer printout, compact disc (CD), video compact disc (VCD), pen drive, etc., pertaining to which a statement is sought to be given in evidence, when the same is produced in evidence. All these safeguards are taken to ensure the source and authenticity, which are the two hallmarks pertaining to electronic record sought to be used as evidence. Electronic records being more susceptible to tampering, alteration, transposition, excision, etc. without such safeguards, the whole trial based on proof of electronic records can lead to travesty of justice.”