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Important Definitions : Evidence Act

Sections 3 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872, defines certain important terms which must be understood in order to facilitate a better interpretation of the provisions of the Act.


The term “Court” is inclusive of the following:

  • All Judges;
  • All Magistrate; and
  • All persons legally authorized to take evidence, except arbitrators.

Etymologically the word “court‟ means King’s Durbar. It is also understood in the sense of:

  1. the place where justice is administered, and
  2. the person or persons who administer justice.

The expression “court‟ is defined in the Evidence Act in the latter sense. According to the definition given in Sections 3 of the Act the court does not mean the four walls of the premises where justices is administered but it means and includes all Judges, Magistrates and such other persons who are legally authorized to take evidence. The above definition under Sections 3 is not exhaustive. The expression “court‟ is not confined only to regular courts, it also includes any person who administers justice and is authorised to take evidence. For example: Commissioners appointed under the Code of Civil procedure, 1908 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Note: A Magistrate committing a case to the Sessions Court falls within the ambit of the aforesaid definition of Court, whereas a Magistrate holding preliminary inquiry under Sections 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure cannot be said to be ‘Court’.


The term “fact” means “an existing thing‟. But under the Evidence Act, the meaning of the word is not limited to only what is tangible and visible or, is any way, the object of sense. According to Sections 3 of the Act, fact means and includes:

  1. Anything, state of things or relation of things capable of being perceived by the senses. Illustrations:
    1. That a person heard or saw something.
    2. That person said certain words.
  2. Any mental condition of which any person is conscious. Illustrations:
    1. A person has an intention to commit murder.
    2. That a man has certain reputation.

Rights and liabilities in a judicial proceedings emerge (arise) out of facts. Sections 3 categorizes facts into: (i) Physical Facts; and (ii) Psychological Facts.

Physical Facts

It means and includes anything, state of thing or relation of things, capable of being perceived by sense. In other words, all facts, which are subject to perception by bodily senses, are “Physical Facts‟. They are also known as external facts.

Psychological Facts

They are also known as “internal facts‟. Those facts, which cannot be perceived by senses, are “Psychological Facts‟. For Example: intention (means area) knowledge, good faith, fraud etc.

Note: Events which have neither occurred in the past nor in the present but are likely to occur in the future does not fall within the ambit of the definition of “Fact” under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 vide “Dueful Laboratory v. State, 1998 Cr LJ 4534 (Raj)”.

Relevant Fact

The word “relevant‟ has two meanings. In one sense, it means, “Connected” and in another sense “admissible”. One fact is said to be relevant to another, when the one is connected is said to be relevant to another, when the one is connected with the other, in any of the ways referred to in the provisions of the Evidence Act relating to the relevancy of facts (Sections 5-55). In other/ simple words, a fact is said to be relevant to another, if it is connected there with under the provision of the Evidence Act. The expression “relevancy‟ means “connection between one fact and another”.

According to James Stephen, “relevancy‟ means “Connection of events as to cause and effect”. What is really meant by “relevant facts‟ is a fact that has a certain degree of probative force? Kinds of relevancy:

  1. Logical Relevancy; and
  2. Legal relevancy.

Logical Relevancy

A fact is said to be logically relevant to another, when by application of our logic, it appears (to us that one fact has a bearing on another fact. Facts. Which are logically relevant are not provable. For instance, Confessional statement made to wife, by her husband. Husband said his wife that he had committed a crime i.e. murder or rape or theft. If the wife gives evidence as to the commission of crime by her husband, it is not admitted in evidence under Section 122 of the Indian Evidence Act. The Act does not deal with logical relevancy. (The Act means Evidence Act). Therefore, it is aid that “All facts logically relevant are not provable; however, legally relevant facts are provable.”

A fact is said to be legally relevant when it is expressed as relevant under Sections 5 to 55 (Relevancy of Facts).

Illustration: A is tried for administering poison to B with a motive of inheriting property. Here, the motive is relevant under Section 8. Similarly the fact revealed by post-mortem expert that the death is caused by the poison is relevant under sec.45. The Act deals with legal relevancy. According to Sections 6-55 of the Act, following are relevant facts:

  1. Facts connected with facts in issue or relevant facts (Section 6-16).
  2. Facts to the issue as admission (Section 17-23) and confessions (Section 24-30).
  3. Statements under special circumstances (Section 34-38).
  4. Judgments (Section 40 and 41).
  5. Opinion of third person (Section 45-51), and
  6. Character of Parties (Section 52-55).

Facts in issue

The expression “Facts in issue” refers to facts out of which a legal right, liability or disability arises and such legal right, liability, or disability is involved in the inquiry and upon which the Court has to give the decision. The question as to what facts may be “facts in issue” must be determined by substantive law or the branch of procedural law which deals with pleadings. Generally, in criminal cases the charge constitutes the facts in issue whereas in civil cases the facts in issue are determined by the process of framing of issues (Order 14 of CPC).

“Facts in issue‟ are those facts, which are alleged by one party and denied by the other in the pleading in a civil case or alleged by the prosecution and denied by the accused in a criminal case.

Illustration: A is accused of murdering B. At trial, the following facts may be in issue. That A caused B’s death. (It refers to the question, whether A has caused the death of B. If the answer is “no‟, A is discharged/ acquitted. If the answer is “yes‟ the following question will arise). That A intended to cause B’s death. (If A caused B’s death, the next question arises is, whether A had an intention to cause B’s death or not. If the intention (mens rea/ mental element) is present, is it murder or culpable homicide and A is awarded serious punishment i.e. death of life imprisonment. Otherwise, (if intention/men rea is absent) it amounts to accident, which is a defence under Section 80 I.P.C. If the accident is by negligence, the punishment is up to 2 years imprisonment or fine or both). That A had received grave and sudden provocation form B. (It refers to the question, whether B is instrumental/ responsible for such a grave and sudden provocation by A, actuating to cause B’s death).

In short, the questions, which give rise to right or liability, are called Facts in issue. In a Criminal Proceeding, Charge contains are facts in issue. Facts in issue are alleged by the prosecution and denied by the defence counsel/defendant. According to Sec.3 of the Act, facts in issue are asserted by the plaintiff and denied by the defendant. According to Section 3 of the Act, facts in issue arise out of a legal right or liability or disability of a party to the case.

Recording facts in issue by civil court is also a fact in issue. Answers to facts in issue are also facts in issue. For Example: A sues B for default against promissory note. B denies execution of promissory note. The questions and also answers in this example constitute “facts in issue‟.

Comparison between Facts in issue & Relevant Facts

Facts in issue Relevant Facts
It is necessary ingredient of a right or liability It is not a necessary ingredient of a right or liability
It is called the Principal fact or “factum probandium” It is called evidentiary fact or “factum probandi”
Facts in issue are affirmed by one party and denied by other Relevant facts are foundation of inference regarding them


The word “Document‟ in the general parlance is understood to mean any matter written upon a paper in some language such as English, Hindi, Urdu and so on. Under the Evidence Act it means “any matter expressed or described upon any substance, paper, stone, or anything by means of letters or marks. According to Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, “Document” means any matter expressed or described on any substance by means of letters, figures, or marks; or by more than one of those means, intended to be used, or which may be used, for the purpose of recoding that matter.

Illustrations: Writing is a document. Words printed, lithographed or photographed are document: A map or plan is a.document: an inscription on a metal plate or stone is a document: A caricature is a document. The word “Documents‟ literally means “written papers”.

According to Section 3 of the Evidence Act, it means and includes matters expressed or described on all material substances by means or letters, figures or marks. For example, writing is a document, and inscription on a metal plate or stone is a document. Writing on the wall is a document. Numbers given on fixed tables and trees are document. Hence, document means all material substance on which human thoughts are recorded. Documents are inanimated proofs while witnesses are animated proofs.


“Evidence‟ means and includes–

  1. All statements which the Court permits or requires to be made before it by Witnesses, in relation to matter of facts under inquiry; such statements are called oral evidence;
  2. All document (including electronic records produced for the inspection of the Court; such documents are called documentary evidence”.

Evidence can be said to be any matter of fact which produces a persuasion in the mind regarding the existence and non-existence of some other matter of fact. Evidence may be oral, which refers to the testimony of witnesses, or.documentary, which refers to the documents and electronic records tendered before the Court. The guilt of an accused may be proved using circumstantial evidence also.

Circumstantial evidence refers to the indirect method of proving the guilt of an accused by drawing inferences from certain facts which are closely related to the facts in issue. However, the standard of proof required for circumstantial evidence is quite high and courts are usually cautious while basing convictions upon circumstantial evidence.

Difference between ‘evidence’ and 'proof'

The word ‘evidence’ includes all the legal means, exclusive on mere argument, which tend to prove or disprove any matter or fact, the truth of which is submitted to judicial investigation. ‘Proof’ is the establishment of fact in issue by proper legal means to the satisfaction of the court. It is the result of evidence, while evidence is only the medium of proof.


A fact is said to be proved when, after considering the matters before it, the Court either believes it to exist or considers its existence so probable that a prudent man ought, under the circumstances of the particular case, to act upon the supposition that it exists.

The word “Proof‟ means “anything, which serves the purpose of convincing either immediately the mind as to the truth or falsehood of a fact or profession. The expression proof under Section 3 of the Evidence Act means “such evidence as would induce a reasonable man to come to a conclusion”.


A fact is said to be “disproved‟ when after considering the matters before it, the court either believes that it does not exist, or considers its non-existence so probable that a prudent ma ought, under the circumstances of the particular case, to act upon the supposition that it does not exist. The definition of the expression disproved is converse of the definition of the expression proved.

Not Proved

A fact is said to be proved when it is neither proved nor disproved. A fact is said to be not proved when neither its existence nor its non-existence is proved. In other words, the man of ordinary prudence neither believes that the fact exists nor he believes that the fact does not exist.

About the Author

  • Adv. Abhishek Gupta (Natraj Legal Solutions)
  • Delhi High Court
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