Saturday 2 December 2023

Important provisions of Indian evidence Act relating to public documents

74. Public documents.—The following documents are public documents—

(1) documents forming the acts or records of the acts—

(i) of the sovereign authority,

(ii) of official bodies and tribunals, and

(iii) of public officers, legislative, judicial and executive, [of any part of India or of the Commonwealth], or of a foreign country;

(2) public records kept [in any State] of private documents.

75. Private documents.—All other documents are private.

76. Certified copies of public documents.—Every public officer having the custody of a public document, which any person has a right to inspect, shall give that person on demand a copy of it on payment of the legal fees therefor, together with a certificate written at the foot of such copy that it is a true copy of such document or part thereof, as the case may be, and such certificate shall be dated and subscribed by such officer with his name and his official title, and shall be sealed, whenever such officer is authorized by law to make use of a seal; and such copies so certified shall be called certified copies.

Explanation.—Any officer who, by the ordinary course of official duty, is authorized to deliver such copies, shall be deemed to have the custody of such documents within the meaning of this section.

77. Proof of documents by production of certified copies.—Such certified copies may be produced in proof of the contents of the public documents or parts of the public documents of which they purport to be copies.

78. Proof of other official documents.

79. Presumption as to genuineness of certified copies.—The Court shall presume [to be genuine] every document purporting to be a certificate, certified copy or other document, which is by law declared to be admissible as evidence of any particular fact and which purports to be duly certified by any officer [of the Central Government or of a State Government, or by any officer [in the State of Jammu and Kashmir] who is duly authorised thereto by the Central Government]:

Provided that such document is substantially in the form and purports to be executed in the manner directed by law in that behalf.

The Court shall also presume that any officer by whom any such document purports to be signed or certified, held, when he signed it, the official character which he claims in such paper.

  • Definition of Public Document:

    • Section 74 of the Indian Evidence Act defines a public document as any of the following: a. A document forming the official act or record of an official body, including the records of courts, public offices, and the Parliament or a State Legislature.

    • Characteristics of Public Documents:

    • Public documents typically have certain characteristics that set them apart from other documents:

    • a. They are created or maintained by a government authority or a public servant in their official capacity.

    •  b. They are accessible to the public, and anyone can inspect or obtain copies of these documents. 

    • c. They hold a certain degree of authority and reliability because they are presumed to be accurate and genuine.

  • Admissibility as Evidence:

    • Section 79 of the Indian Evidence Act states that certified copies of public documents are presumed to be genuine provided that such documents are substantially in the form and purports to be executed in the manner directed by law in that behalf.

  • Examples of Public Documents:

    • Some common examples of public documents include birth certificates, marriage certificates, land records, government orders, court judgments, and official records maintained by government departments.

In summary, a public document, as defined by the Indian Evidence Act, is an official document created by a government authority or public servant in their official capacity. These documents are presumed to be genuine and accurate, making them admissible as evidence in court without the need for extensive verification. 

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