This article on “Presumptions under the Indian Evidence Act: All you need to know” was written by Samar Jain, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 is an act that consolidates, defines, and amends the law of evidence in India. This Act applies to all of the judicial proceedings that are presented before any court within the territorial limits of India. It is also applicable to Court Martials (not applicable to any proceedings which happen under the Air Force Act/The Indian Navy Discipline Act/ The Army Act.) It is however not applicable to any procedure carried out under an Arbitrator or to any affidavit presented before any court.
Presumption means to establish facts based on the possibility of certain acts, which have toughened the possibility of such acts and when this possibility has a great value, then the facts of certain activities can be understood. It means the inferences drawn by the court regarding the facts. These inferences drawn by the court can be positive or negative and are derived by using the best possible reasonable method of reasoning as per the situation.
In this article, we will be seeing what the presumptions are laid down in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
Definition of evidence under the Indian Evidence Act. As per Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Evidence means the following:
- Any statement made by the witnesses which refers to the matter under investigation before the court which has been permitted or required by it.
- Any document presented before the court for inspection by it. It also includes e-records within its ambit.
- Equal to Proof
- Equal to being Relevant
- Equal to Material.
- Different Types of Evidence
Other important provisions in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872:
- Oral/Documentary-Section 59.
- Oral Evidence- Section 60.
- Contents of Document to be proved by using Primary/Secondary Evidence- Section 61.
- Provision for specification of presentation of Primary Evidence and provision for presentation of secondary evidence in cases- S 62- 66.
- Provisions for proving document authenticity through oral evidence- S 67- 69 and 71-72.
- Provisions for determining the deed terms- S 73 and 73 A.
- Provisions for non-application of the Indian Evidence Act to the provisions of the Indian Succession Act when dealing with will drafting- S 100
Presumption means to establish facts based on the possibility of certain acts, which have toughened the possibility of such acts and when this possibility has a great value, then the facts of certain activities can be understood. It means the inferences drawn by the court about the facts. These inferences drawn by the court can be positive or negative and are derived by using the best possible reasonable method of reasoning as per the situation. The most basic principle is that when any one element(Fact), of the case, is proven to be a primary fact, then the other facts related to the primary fact are presumed to be proved until disapproved.
As per S 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, the court has been bestowed the power to presume the existence of any fact if it thinks that the fact is related to the case if it has occurred in the natural course of Human Conduct/Natural Events/ Business of Public and Private Nature.
Types of Presumptions
The common law approach traditionally has classified presumptions into two categories only however to avoid any haziness/doubt/uncertainty a third presumption has also been added by the Courts of India. The categories are as follows:
- Presumption of Facts
- Presumption of Laws
- Mixed Presumptions
- Presumption of Facts-
Presumptions of facts refer to those interpretations that are derived logically and practically based on observations and surroundings in the course of basic human conduct.
Also known as Natural/ Material Presumptions, they are illustrations of indirect pieces of evidence as it believes that in the path of perception, it is easy to conclude from the other pieces of evidence. It would have been otherwise difficult to sort from the other pieces of evidence as the system of law would then have to prove every detailed element to capture the legally conflicted members/ the lawbreakers.
Natural Presumptions usually are invalidated/ denied/ disapproved. In this classification of presumption, the shall presume notion is applied. The courts presume that a fact which been established before them will be considered to be a proven one unless the suspect disapproves of it. This notion makes it compulsory for the court to admit some of the facts as proved until they are challenged and disapproved.
In law there exist some provisions which in a straight line express Natural Presumptions, and are as follows:
- Section 86- Certified and True Duplicates of Judicial Records of Foreign Nations
- Section 87- Presumption related to Charts, Maps, and Books.
- Section 88- Presumption of Messages of Telegraphic Nature.
- Section 90- Presumption of documents of 30 years old
- Section 113 A- Presumption as to the abetment of suicide by a woman who is married.
- Section 113B- Presumption as to the abetment of suicide by a woman who is married with relation to dowry death.
- Presumption of Law-
They refer to those interpretations and principles that are assumed by the law on their own and need not be proved before the court as it is presumed by law to be already a proven one.
These interpretations and principles are further divided into 2 categories. They are as follows:
- Rebuttable Presumptions of Law:
Rebuttable Presumptions: These refer to those presumptions which are regarded as good quality evidence and until proven contrary they do not lose their quality. They do not easily measure the degree of the presumption as they only are legitimate presumptions unless proven incorrect.
The best example is the offenses of matrimonial offenses as in these type of offenses the chances of getting evidence is low. Thus the essence of presumption in these cases is important. There are three such provisions essential to matrimonial offenses and are as follows:
Section 112- A Legitimate Proof is Birth During Marriage
Section 113A- A Legitimate Presumption is the death of a woman who is married and is termed of abetment of a suicide woman in 7 years of marriage.
Section 113B- A Legitimate Presumption is the death of a woman within 7 years of marriage regarding dowry
- Irrebuttable Presumptions of Law:
Irrebuttable Presumption- Such presumptions cannot be challenged as conclusive proof and no requirement of additional evidence is required.
- Mixed Presumptions-
Mixed presumptions are a combination of both Presumptions of Fact and Presumptions of Law.
In the English Legal System, the mixed presumption is only found in the statutes which deal with Real Property. However, in The Indian Legal System, these presumptions are specifically mentioned and the statute which deals with them is the Indian Evidence Act.
Mixed Presumptions have different provisions when the court exercises its discretionary power when it raises presumptions with the help of Principles of Conclusive Proof, May Presume, and Shall Presume.
Principles of Conclusive Proof May Presume and Shall Presume
- Conclusive Presumptions refer to those presumptions which are not fully created based on logic but also on the credence that these presumptions are needed for the welfare of society in general. The law has full unquestioned power and does not allow the conclusive presumptions to be questioned and challenged even if the presumption on which conclusive proof is based is questioned and challenged.
- May Presume is a situation when the court can apply the power of discretion and presume any facts/facts and recognize it to be a proven one or can also ask for evidence of a confirming nature to check or re-check the presumption set by it. It is governed by Section 4 of the Indian Evidence Act and it can be disapproved by the other party. It is not a branch of Jurisprudence.
- The Shall Presume signifies a strong claim or aims to determine any fact. It is governed by Section 4 of the Indian Evidence Act where the notion of shall presume is also known as Rebuttable Presumption of Law/ Obligatory Presumption/ Artificial Presumption. The Court does not have discretionary power in this case but regards the facts as proved until disapproved. It is a branch of Jurisprudence.
Thus we can see that the Indian Legal System relies upon presumptions that help to give judicial decisions in a better manner. These presumptions are classified into Presumptions of Law, Presumptions of Fact, and Mixed Presumptions. The Court also has the power which is discretionary to decide where a presumption would lie in Law/Fact/ Mistake respectively. To decide this the courts take the help of the Principles of Conclusive Proof, May Presume, and Shall Presume.
A stark difference between English Law and Indian Law, concerning mixed presumptions, is that while in the case of the former, mixed presumptions lie only in real property statutes, and in the case of the latter, they are specifically mentioned in the Indian Evidence Act and governs all types of cases.
List of References:
- Naivedya Kumar, “Presumption Of Facts And Presumption Of Law”, Legal Services India, available at: https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-9250-presumption-of-facts-and-presumption-of-law.html
- “Presumptions as to Indian Evidence Act Documents”, Law Teacher,26 August 2021, available at: https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/contract-law/presumptions-as-to-indian-evidence-act-documents-contract-law-essay.php#:~:text=Presumptions%20are%20inferences%20which%20are,proof%20with%20respect%20to%20it.
- Sparsh Mali, “Presumptions in the Indian Evidence Act”, iPleaders Blog, 25 June 2019, available at: https://blog.ipleaders.in/presumption-of-law/