Expert Evidence and Appreciation of Evidence

Saji Koduvath, Advocate.

Sec. 3 and 45 of the Evidence Act

On a broad classification, ‘evidence’ can be classified into following categories, according to Sec. 3 (definitions) and 45 of the Evidence Act.

  • oral evidence
  • documentary evidence including electronic records
  • Opinions of experts including views of persons specially skilled in foreign law, science or art, or in questions as to identify of handwriting or finger-impressions. It may also be termed as scientific evidence.

Expert Evidence is only Corroborative

In case of a conflict between oral evidence or scientific evidence, which will prevail? The answer is that it depends upon the nature of the subject matter. In everyday practice we see that trustworthy and credible oral evidence get primacy status over the scientific evidence. It is on the principle that the scientific evidence is always an ‘opinion’ or ‘possibility’ only. By the advent of scientific techniques in the field of judicial investigation and enquiry, our judicial process began to assign due importance to scientific evidence. Still, the oral evidence has primacy over the scientific evidence.  

It is important that Section 45 of the Evidence Act does not say anything as to the weight to be attached to the expert evidence. This Section only says that expert’s evidence is admissible. The expert-evidence is not substantive evidence; and it is generally used as a piece of evidence for corroboration or conflict with oral evidence. The evidence of an expert only aids and helps the Court as advisory material. The expert being not a witness of fact, his opinion is to be analysed objectively by the court. The decision making process is never delegated to the expert; the expert only helps and assists the Court to decide. Courts always give due importance to the opinion of the experts. But, it will not substitute proof. Court is said to be the expert of experts.

In Solanki Chimanbhai Ukabhai v. State of Gujarat, (1983) 2 SCC 174, it was held that the evidence of eyewitnesses should be preferred unless the medical evidence completely rules it out. It was held as under:

  • “13. Ordinarily, the value of medical evidence is only corroborative. It proves that the injuries could have been caused in the manner alleged and nothing more. The use which the defence can make of the medical evidence is to prove that the injuries could not possibly have been caused in the manner alleged and thereby discredit the eyewitnesses. Unless, however the medical evidence in its turn goes so far that it completely rules out all possibilities whatsoever of injuries taking place in the manner alleged by eyewitnesses, the testimony of the eyewitnesses cannot be thrown out on the ground of alleged inconsistency between it and the medical evidence.”

In State of Haryana v. Bhagirath, (1999) 5 SCC 96, the Supreme Court held as under:

  • “15. The opinion given by a medical witness need not be the last word on the subject. Such opinion shall be tested by the court. If the opinion is bereft of logic or objectivity, the court is not obliged to go by that opinion. After all opinion is what is formed in the mind of a person regarding a fact situation. If one doctor forms one opinion and another doctor forms a different opinion on the same facts it is open to the Judge to adopt the view which is more objective or probable. Similarly if the opinion given by one doctor is not consistent with probability the court has no liability to go by that opinion merely because it is said by the doctor. Of course, due weight must be given to opinions given by persons who are experts in the particular subject.”

The blood group on the dress of the accused and the dress of the deceased matched. It corroborates the prosecution story. However that by itself is not conclusive proof of the culpability of the accused (Binder Munda v. State, 1992 Cr.L.J. 3508 Ori. (DB).

In Surinder Singh v. State of Punjab, 1989 SCC (Cri) 649, it is observed that it would not be helpful to the prosecution if it was not shown that the blood-stains on the weapon recovered from the possession of the accused were of the same group as the blood of the deceased. (See also: Kansa Behera. v. State of Orissa.AIR 1987 SC 1507).

In State of U.P. v. Krishna Gopal, AIR 1988 SC 2154, the eye-witnesses were found credible and trustworthy. Therefore, the medical opinion pointing to alternative possibilities was not accepted as conclusive. The Apex Court pointed out that witnesses, as Bantham said, were the eyes and ears of justice. Hence the importance and primacy of the orality of the trial process. Eyewitnesses’ account would require a careful independent assessment and evaluation for their credibility, which should not be adversely prejudged making any other evidence, including medical evidence as the sole touchstone for the test of such credibility. The evidence must be tested for its inherent consistency and the inherent improbabilities.

Decision which changed the concept of law on ‘conclusive presumption’

Nandlal Wasudeo Badwaik Vs. Lata Nandlal Badwaik, AIR 2014 SC 932, is a very important decision which changed the concept of law on ‘conclusive presumption’ on Sec. 112 which reads as under:

  • “112. Birth during marriage, conclusive proof of legitimacy. The fact that any person was born during the continuance of a valid marriage between his mother and any man, or within two hundred and eighty days after its dissolution, the mother remaining unmarried, shall be conclusive proof that he is the legitimate son of that man, unless it can be shown that the parties to the marriage had no access to each other at any time when he could have been begotten.”

It is held in Nandlal Wasudeo Badwaik case as under:

  • “17. We may remember that Section 112 of the Evidence Act was enacted at a time when the modern scientific advancement and DNA test were not even in contemplation of the Legislature. The result of DNA test is said to be scientifically accurate. Although Section 112 raises a presumption of conclusive proof on satisfaction of the conditions enumerated therein but the same is rebuttable. The presumption may afford legitimate means of arriving at an affirmative legal conclusion. While the truth or fact is known, in our opinion, there is no need or room for any presumption. Where there is evidence to the contrary, the presumption is rebuttable and must yield to proof. Interest of justice is best served by ascertaining the truth and the court should be furnished with the best available science and may not be left to bank upon presumptions, unless science has no answer to the facts in issue. In our opinion, when there is a conflict between a conclusive proof envisaged under law and a proof based on scientific advancement accepted by the world community to be correct, the latter must prevail over the former.”

Appreciation of Evidence of Experts
In practice, the investigating agencies and courts give very high importance to wound-certificates and post-mortem certificates. They are considered as an indispensable part in most criminal cases. Same is the case of evidence of Ballistic expert. Here also primacy is given to ocular evidence if it is found credible by the court, especially when the ocular evidence is supported by the wound certificate or post-motem report.

Post-Mortem Report is not a Substantive Evidence

Post-mortem Report or Wound Certificate is not a substantive evidence [Mohan Singh v. Emperor, AIR 1925 All. 413 (DB); State v. Rakshpal Singh, AIR 1953 All. 520; Ram Pratap v. State, 1967 All.W.R. (H.C.) 395; Ram Balak Singh v. State, AIR 1964 Pat. 62(DB); Mellor v. Walnesley, 1905, 2Ch. 164 (CA);Hadi Kisani v. State, AIR 1966 Orissa 21; Gofur Sheikh v. State, 1984 Cr.L.J. 559 (Cal); Bhanda Gorh v. State of Assam, 1984 Cr.L.J.217 (Gau); Jagdeo Singh v. State, 1979 Cr.L.J.236 (All);  K. Pratap Reddy v. State of A.P., 1985 Cr.L.J.1446].

In Vadugu Chanti Babu v. State of A.P. (2002) 6 SCC 547 it is observed that a stray statement of the doctor in cross-examination will not be a conclusive opinion; but it is only a possibility. In a maintenance dispute under Sec. 125 Cr PC our Apex Court, in Saygo Bai Vs. Chueeru Bajrangi, AIR 2011 SC 1557, observed that the Court must read whole evidence and that one stray admission cannot be read in isolation with the other evidence. 

Appreciation of Evidence is Both an Art and a Science

R. Basant, J., in Basheer Vs. Mahasakthi Enterprises – 2005-3 Ker LT 163: 2005-1 Mad LJ 965, held as under:

  • “The appreciation of evidence is both an art and a science. All relevant inputs have to be taken into consideration for the Court to answer a disputed question of fact. Each circumstance including the opinion tendered by an expert must be taken into consideration. All the relevant inputs must be placed in the crucible. But the result of such appreciation must stem from prudence, reasonableness and intelligence of the Court. The knowledge of men and matters of the Court would be crucial. The knowledge of the court of common course of events and natural and probable behaviour of human beings will be vital. The yardsticks of a reasonably prudent mind have to be accepted. All relevant circumstances must go into the decision making. When the evidence is sifted, weighed, tested, analysed and evaluated, no one piece of evidence can be said to overrule the others unless such evidence be clinching, convincing and beyond doubt.”

Read in this cluster (Click on the topic):

Book No. 1.   Handbook of a Civil Lawyer

Book No. 2: A Handbook on Constitutional Issues

Book No. 3: Common Law of CLUBS and SOCIETIES in India

Book No. 4: Common Law of TRUSTS in India

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s