Legal Blog: Decision on Questions Regarding Admissibility of Document in Evidence : The Appropriate Stage

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Decision on Questions Regarding Admissibility of Document in Evidence : The Appropriate Stage

Justice KT Thomas
Questions as to admissibility of a document in evidence are often raised during a trial. Most Courts while recording such objection tend to delay / postpone the decision as to the admissibilty of the document, at the stage of final arguments. The Supreme Court in Bipin Shantilal Panchal vs State Of Gujarat And Anr has laid down the procedure to be followed by the trial courts while dealing with such objections. The relevant extracts from the said judgment are reproduced hereinbelow;

"On that day the defence raised another objection regarding admissibility of another document. The trial judge heard elaborate arguments thereon and upheld the objection and consequently refused to admit that particular document. What the prosecution did at that stage was to proceed to the High Court against the said order and in the wake of that proceeding respondent filed an application on 9.11.2000, for enlarging him on bail on the strength of the order passed by this Court on 31.3.2000 (extracted above).
We are compelled to say that the trial judge should have shown more sensitivity by adopting all measures to accelerate the trial procedure in order to reach its finish within the time frame indicated by this Court in the order dated 31.3.2000 since he knew very well that under his orders an accused is continuing in jail as an under-trial for a record period of more than seven years. Now, we feel that the Additional Judge, whether the present incumbent or his predecessor, was not serious in complying with the directions issued by this Court, though the parties in the case have also contributed their share in bypassing the said direction.
As pointed out earlier, on different occasions the trial judge has chosen to decide questions of admissibility of documents or other items of evidence, as and when objections thereto were raised and then detailed orders were passed either upholding or overruling such objections. The worse part is that after passing the orders the trial court waited for days and weeks for the concerned parties to go before the higher courts for the purpose of challenging such interlocutory orders.
It is an archaic practice that during the evidence collecting stage, whenever any objection is raised regarding admissibility of any material in evidence the court does not proceed further without passing order on such objection. But the fall out of the above practice is this: Suppose the trial court, in a case, upholds a particular objection and excludes the material from being admitted in evidence and then proceeds with the trial and disposes of the case finally. If the appellate or revisional court, when the same question is re-canvassed, could take a different view on the admissibility of that material in such cases the appellate court would be deprived of the benefit of that evidence, because that was not put on record by the trial court. In such a situation the higher court may have to send the case back to the trial court for recording that evidence and then to dispose of the case afresh. Why should the trial prolong like that unnecessarily on account of practices created by ourselves. Such practices, when realised through the course of long period to be hindrances which impede steady and swift progress of trial proceedings, must be recast or re-moulded to give way for better substitutes which would help acceleration of trial proceedings.
When so recast, the practice which can be a better substitute is this: Whenever an objection is raised during evidence taking stage regarding the admissibility of any material or item of oral evidence the trial court can make a note of such objection and mark the objected document tentatively as an exhibit in the case (or record the objected part of the oral evidence) subject to such objections to be decided at the last stage in the final judgment. If the court finds at the final stage that the objection so raised is sustainable the judge or magistrate can keep such evidence excluded from consideration. In our view there is no illegality in adopting such a course. (However, we make it clear that if the objection relates to deficiency of stamp duty of a document the court has to decide the objection before proceeding further. For all other objections the procedure suggested above can be followed.)
The above procedure, if followed, will have two advantages. First is that the time in the trial court, during evidence taking stage, would not be wasted on account of raising such objections and the court can continue to examine the witnesses. The witnesses need not wait for long hours, if not days. Second is that the superior court, when the same objection is re-canvassed and reconsidered in appeal or revision against the final judgment of the trial court, can determine the correctness of the view taken by the trial court regarding that objection, without bothering to remit the case to the trial court again for fresh disposal. We may also point out that this measure would not cause any prejudice to the parties to the litigation and would not add to their misery or expenses.
We, therefore, make the above as a procedure to be followed by the trial courts whenever an objection is raised regarding the admissibility of any material or any item of oral evidence.


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