Expert under Indian Evidence Act
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Expert under Indian Evidence Act

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 23-Feb-2024

Source: Supreme Court

Why in News?

Recently, the bench of Justices Abhay S. Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan held that “If the evidence tendered including that of eyewitnesses do not inspire confidence the omission to seek ballistic opinion and examination of the ballistic expert may be fatal to the prosecution case”.

  • The aforesaid observation was made in the matter of Ram Singh v. State of UP.

What was the Background of Ram Singh v. State of UP Case?

  • On 19th August 1982, at midnight, Shri Radhey Lal filed a First Information Report (FIR) at Bhognipur Police Station in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
  • He recounted that he and his brother Desh Raj were outdoors with their mother Dulli and neighbors Lala Ram Prosecution Witness (PW-3) and Man Singh (PW-2) chatting under a lantern.
    • Ram Singh and Lala Ram arrived; Ram Singh brandished a pistol instigated by Lala Ram, alleging disturbance.
    • Ram Singh fired, hitting Dulli fatally in the left breast.
    • Eyewitnesses included Desh Raj, Lala Ram, and Man Singh.
  • The incident followed a prior altercation between Radhey Lal's son and Ram Singh, both affiliated with the same political party.
  • Ram Singh was charged with murder under Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) while Lala Ram faced charges for attempt to murder under IPC.
  • Ram Singh was convicted as charged, whereas Lala Ram was acquitted due to insufficient evidence.
  • The High Court upheld Ram Singh's conviction and sentence.
  • Hence, an appeal was filed before the Supreme Court.
  • The appellant's counsel argued before the SC that there were significant contradictions in the prosecution witnesses' testimony, suggesting they were politically motivated and not true eyewitnesses.
    • Furthermore, crucial witnesses were not examined, and the alleged country-made pistol was never recovered.
    • The pellets found at the scene and in the victim's body were not subjected to ballistic examination, undermining the conviction.
  • The appellant's counsel contended that the trial court had erred in convicting the appellant while acquitting the co-accused based on the same evidence.
    • This inconsistency, he argued, warranted the appellant's acquittal.

What were the Court’s Observations?

  • The SC observed that on the whole, the evidence tendered on behalf of the prosecution cannot be said to be full proof so much so that non-recovery of the weapon of offence, non-obtaining of ballistic opinion and nonexamination of ballistic expert would be immaterial.
  • Hence, the SC allowed the appeal.

Who is an Expert under Indian Evidence Act, 1872?

  • Section 45: Opinion of an Expert:
    • Section 45 allows for the opinion of an expert to be considered as evidence.
    • When the court has to form an opinion upon a point of foreign law or of science, art, or identity of handwriting or finger impressions, the opinions of persons specially skilled in such foreign law, science, or art, or in questions as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions are considered relevant.
  • Section 46: Facts Bearing on Opinion of Experts:
    • Section 46 states that facts, not otherwise relevant, may be admissible if they support or are inconsistent with the opinions of experts when such opinions are relevant.
  • Section 47: Opinion as to Handwriting, when Relevant
    • Section 47 deals with the opinion of experts regarding the handwriting of a person.
    • When the court forms an opinion as to the person by whom any document was written or signed, the expert opinions are admissible.
  • Section 47A: Opinion as to Digital Signature
    • Section 47A provides for the opinion of an expert as to the digital signature.
    • When the Court has to form an opinion as to the electronic signature of any person, the opinion of the Certifying Authority which has issued the electronic Signature Certificate is a relevant fact.
  • Section 48: Opinion as to Existence of Right or Custom, when Relevant
    • Section 48 states that when the court has to form an opinion upon a point of law or of custom, the opinions of persons who are specially skilled in such law or custom are relevant.
  • Section 49: Opinion as to Usages, Tenets, Etc., when Relevant
    • Section 49 deals with opinion as to usages, tenets, etc., when relevant.
    • When the court has to form an opinion as to the usages and tenets of any body of men or family, the opinions of persons having special means of knowledge on the subject are relevant.
  • Section 50: Opinions of Relationship when relevant:
    • When the Court has to form an opinion as to the relationship of one person to another, the opinion, expressed by conduct, as to the existence of such relationship, of any person who, as a member of the family or otherwise, has special means of knowledge on the subject, is a relevant fact:
    • Provided that such opinion shall not be sufficient to prove a marriage in proceedings under the Indian Divorce Act, 1869, or in prosecutions under sections 494, 495, 497 or 498 of the IPC.
  • Section 51: Grounds of Opinion When Relevant:
    • Section 51 specifies the grounds on which the opinion of an expert is considered relevant.
    • Whenever the opinion of any living person is relevant, the grounds on which such opinion is based are also relevant.