Reliability and Trustworthiness of Hearsay Evidence
The article ‘Reliability and Trustworthiness of Hearsay Evidence’ is all about the meaning of Hearsay Evidence along with certain exceptions and circumstances where it may be admissible in court.
Hearsay Evidence refers to an out-of-court statement made by someone other than the witness who is testifying in court. This type of evidence is generally considered to be less reliable than direct evidence, as it is based on second-hand information and can be subject to distortion, misinterpretation, or misrepresentation.
This phrase, which consists of the terms “hear” and “say,” describes a testimony that is not based on direct personal communication but rather on what a witness may have overheard others saying during an informal conversation, and is regarded as secondhand knowledge. When compared to direct testimony from witnesses, hearsay is generally viewed as a less reliable type of evidence. A witness’s testimony that is not based on any direct personal communication is referred to as hearsay evidence. It can be secondhand information because the witness overheard it or learned about it from a third party. Since it is neither based on the witness’s experience nor on their own understanding, it is an extremely flimsy type of evidence.
Lord Reid further asserts that
“it is difficult to make any general statement about the law of hearsay that is entirely accurate.”
He just goes on to demonstrate that there has always been some uncertainty over the details of this rule.
Because the individual supplying the evidence has no personal responsibility for the statement’s factual correctness and because there is much room for the truth to be diluted in such a remark, hearsay evidence is typically not admissible before courts. In Rabindra Nath Thakur v. Union of India, 1999 (1) BLJR 197 the court cited the ruling in Subramaniam v. Public Prosecutor, Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, 1 W.L.R. 965 and ruled that hearsay could or might not apply to evidence of a statement made to a witness by someone who was not summoned as a witness. When the goal of the evidence is to prove the veracity of the statement, it is hearsay and inadmissible. When it is suggested to show by the evidence, not the veracity of the statement, but the fact that it was said, it is not hearsay and is admissible.
Jasmine was driving a black truck at the time of the accident, Janvi revealed to Rimsha. Jasmine was operating a black truck when the accident occurred, according to Janvi’s testimony to Rimsha. If Rimsha testified to such an assertion in order to demonstrate that Jasmine was operating a black truck, it would be hearsay. But Rimsha’s claim won’t be considered hearsay if Janvi is able to subsequently claim in court that she saw Jasmine operating the black truck.
Kalyan Kumar Gogoi v. Ashutosh Agnihotri and Anr., Civil Appeal no. 4820 of 2007
In this case, the Supreme Court of India took note of the reason why hearsay testimony is not regarded as significant evidence under the Indian Testimony Act, 1872. According to the fundamentals of evidence law, hearsay testimony is not admissible in a court of law since it is by its very nature erroneous and ambiguous. As part of its observation, the Court of Law established the following criteria under which hearsay evidence does not have considerable weight in the eyes of the law:
- The obligation of the person supplying hearsay evidence is nullified, which ipso facto defeats the purpose of the evidence legislation, which calls for every piece of evidence submitted in court to be provided with care and understanding on the part of the provider. This is also due to the possibility of false accusations being made against the person by the court if something different were to occur.
- Hearsay evidence weakens the truth that must be submitted to the court, wasting both the court’s valuable time and that of the opposing party.
- If the courts allow hearsay evidence, it makes it easier for fraud, deception, and undue influence to occur, which is unfair to the party that is the target of the testimony.
Exceptions of Hearsay Evidence
The Prohibition on the introduction of hearsay evidence has been described as “fundamental”. Additionally, the Indian Evidence Act’s Section 60, which governs oral testimony, states that Oral testimony must always be direct.
It follows that the individual who disputes hearsay must have firsthand knowledge of the relevant information. There are a few instances that are exceptions to this rule that are allowed in a court of law, however, this cannot be stretched to indicate that direct evidence or hearsay evidence would be admitted as a circumstance to establish a fact.
The main exceptions are as follows:
- Admission and Confession
- Res Gestae
- Evidence was given in Formal Proceedings
- Dying Declaration
Admission and Confession
Sections 17 – 23, Section 31 and Sections 24 – 30 define admissions and confessions, respectively. An admission is a declaration that implies any important fact or fact at dispute.
On the other hand, admitting one’s own guilt in front of a judge and jury is known as a confession. Confession, in contrast to Admission, is not defined by the Indian Evidence Act. The sections relating to the same, or Section 24 through Section 30, describe many laws addressing confessions, such as circumstances where they are irrelevant—caused by inducement, threat, or promise; or a police officer—confessions in police custody; and others. Here, when there is an extrajudicial or out-of-court admission of culpability or confession of guilt, the testimony may be proven through the individual to whom such a statement was made.
State of Maharashtra v. Kamal Ahmed Mohd. Vakil Ansari, Criminal Appeal no 445 of 2013
The Supreme Court’s decision stated that “Admissions and confessions are exceptions to the “hearsay” rule. The Evidence Act classifies them as relevant evidence, probably on the grounds that since they are pronouncements that go against the maker’s interests, they are almost certainly accurate. An admission or confession’s probative value is independent of who it is communicated.
Words and comments relating to res gestae are acceptable under the hearsay exception under evidence law. Res gestae, as it relates to the facts in question, is defined by the IEA under Section 6 as “facts which form part of the same transaction,” regardless of occurrence, where “transaction” has a variety of meanings.
The courts have further noted that “Res Gestae” is the common name for the declaration of law found in section 6 of the Evidence Act. Everything that could constitute an object of rights, whether an object, subject matter, or status, is what the word “res” means in its literal sense.
Instances like this one, when the witness came to the crime site after hearing gunfire, saw the injured, and revealed the identity of the attacker, were admissible under Section 6 since they were a part of the same transaction, which in this case was the act of shooting.
It is important to note that the Act’s sections 7, 8, and 9 and section 14 should all be read simultaneously because they further explain and provide examples of res gestae, as stated in Section 6. The uncertainty of this section serves as its focus.
Bhaskaran v. State of Kerala, 1985 Criminal Appeal no. 1711
As stated by the court in this case,
“While no question the spontaneity of the remark is the assurance of the truth, the reasons for its acceptance under Section 6 is that it is a part of the deal and not only because it is spontaneous.”
The comment is only significant if it was made by someone who witnessed the actual event and who did so immediately after it occurred or at a time when it was reasonably certain that the speaker was still experiencing the stress and excitement brought on by seeing the incident.
Evidence in the Formal Proceeding
Section 33 of the Indian Evidence Act allows statements made by a specific witness in prior proceedings to be used as proof of the veracity of future facts in the same case when the named victim has passed away or is unable to appear in court.
There are some other special exceptions to the rule of hearsay in addition to the ones already listed. “Relevancy of entry in public record done during the performance of duty” is defined in Section 35. In this case, statements in public records are pertinent statements, and even though the subject of the statement may no longer be alive, their earlier ones are nonetheless admissible in court. Additionally, entries made in accounting records pursuant to Section 34 as well as expert opinions offered pursuant to Sections 45 to 51 are admissible.
According to Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act, a dying declaration is a statement made by a person about what occurred or the cause of their death that becomes relevant when the cause of the person’s death is in dispute throughout the course of the case.
While a deathbed declaration should typically be recorded by a magistrate, the Delhi High Court found that if the declaration could be substantiated and was clear, it might still be presented to the court even if it were to be documented by a police officer. In the event of a deathbed declaration, the remarks made by the deceased to a third party might be presented in court in lieu of the deceased person being asked to testify as a witness. Thus, it has been determined that the deathbed declaration is an exception to the rule against hearsay testimony.
State of Punjab v. Parveen Kumar, Criminal Appeal no. 633 of 1999
The Supreme Court outlined several steps to examine the veracity of the evidence where there are many dying statements in this case. The Court stipulates that numerous tests must be conducted in order to ascertain the truth. The Court must use other evidence from its record to explain the situation so that the truth can be inferred if the statements give conflicting accounts of the facts and do not relate to them.
Sudhakar v. State of Madhya Pradesh, Criminal Appeal 2472 of 2009
In the case of Sudhakar v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court was deciding the issue of multiple dying declarations, which differed from other statements and had no series related to each other. This would cast doubt on whether the statement should be believed or not in the eyes of the court. In order to resolve the issue, the Court gave some directions that will help to guide it while exercising its judgment in such matters.
As for the conclusion regarding hearsay evidence, it is generally excluded from being admitted in court unless it falls within certain exceptions because the law demands that every piece of evidence be provided under personal responsibility, i.e., a sense of accountability that would eliminate any chance of faking statements without culpability. In the case of State of Haryana v. Rattan Singh, AIR 1977 SC 1512, the Supreme Court ruled that hearsay evidence was acceptable as long as it had a plausible connection to the matter at hand and was credible. Even though the hearsay rule is rather straightforward, legal procedures make it convoluted at best.
Courts have recognized that there may be situations where hearsay evidence is necessary and reliable, such as when the original declarant is unavailable to testify or when the statement was made in a trustworthy manner.
The admissibility and weight given to hearsay evidence can vary depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances of the case.
 Aditi Singh, Rule of Hearsay Evidence under Indian Evidence Act, Available Here
 Lavanya Rai, Hearsay Evidence Under Indian Evidence Act, Available Here