9 Types of Evidence: Everything to know

Law is a field that impacts our lives daily. Although there are various aspects of law and evidence plays a huge role in it. Evidence is a form of items, materials, or statements that are aimed at establishing truth. The items or materials present are not random, but they are in correlation with the matter present in the court. This evidence supports the case and helps the case to win in court.

Before we discuss the types of evidence, let’s discuss the importance of evidence first.

Importance of evidence

  • Supports the argument that backs your argument.
  • Refutes the statement of the opposing side.
  • Allows the defendant to move beyond mere statements.

Now let’s discuss the types of evidence:

  1. Oral evidence
  2. Documentary evidence
  3. Scientific evidence
  4. Primary evidence
  5. Secondary evidence
  6. Hearsay evidence
  7. Direct evidence
  8. Indirect evidence
  9. Circumstantial evidence

Let’s elaborate on these types of evidence:

1. Oral evidence

There are various kinds of evidence, and oral evidence is one of them. As the name suggests oral evidence, constitutes any statement that the courts give permission to be presented by the witnesses. Oral evidence gets the authority to be presented in court through Section 59 of the Indian Evidence Act. Anything said in the court would be considered oral evidence. The law has a provision for those types of witnesses who cannot communicate orally; anything they communicate through writing or any other way in the court would be considered oral evidence. 

Section 60 of the Indian Evidence Act depicts what is considered oral evidence:

  1. Evidence that the eyewitness saw the act of crime.
  2. A statement or a fact that can be heard.
  3. Opinions that are made, or the grounds on which the opinions are based.
  4. Any matter that can be perceived through the senses

One thing that is strictly followed under oral evidence is that any evidence that is given is direct and does not include hearsay. As hearsay evidence does not hold any value under oral evidence because it is not direct. Section 60 of the Indian Evidence Act included direct and excluded hearsay was concluded under State Vs. Rajal Anand.

2. Documentary evidence –

Documentary evidence largely can be understood as a piece of evidence that is written/ documented. The law deems documentary evidence to be having a superior evidentiary position as opposed to the oral evidence. All documents including digital documents would be considered documentary evidence. Types of digital evidence  and types of physical evidence would be considered under documentary evidence.

Broadly speaking, the documentary evidences are divided into two categories, namely-

  1. Public Documents- (Section 74)
  2. Private Documents – (Section 75)

Public documents would those matter that is present in some public register, record or book. The relevant copies of documents can be presented in court. Some examples of public documents entail-

  • Birth Certificates
  • FIR
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Electricity Bill
  • Business Records
  • Water Bill, etc.

As the name suggests, private documents are those documents that are exchanged between the parties such as letters, emails, postcards, etc. The court prefers public documents more as compared to private documents. Authenticity is one of the main reasons, as the court believes that the risk of tampering with the public documents is far less than with private documents.

The law allows the documents to be presented in court, but there are various rules that determine their admissibility. These rules in place allow the court to decide what the submitted documents prove. 

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3. Scientific evidence –

Scientific evidence is those evidence which is proven to work through scientific methods. Science is proven to be reliable and is assumed to be a valid source of evidence that provides explanations that are known to be reliable. 

The scientific evidence allows the court to understand the evidence and facts of the legal problem. Scientfic evidence builds certainty from the suspicion that helps in establishing guilt or innocence. 

Some examples of scientific evidence include

  • Fingerprints
  • DNA
  • Narcoanalysis
  • Brain Impressing Test 
  • Ossification Tests 

4. Primary evidence –

Primary evidence is considered the superior class of evidence. These are those matters, documents, and facts which can be produced in the court for further assessment and inspection. As the name primarily suggests, these are the original documents. 

The primary shreds of evidence supersede the secondary evidence. The first instance of production should be primary evidence. These are the actual items of evidence. 

Various types of witnesses of primary evidence include-

  • Original documents
  • Government records
  • Letters
  • Photographs
  • Emails
  • Memoirs

5. Secondary evidence –

Secondary evidence is presented in Section 63 of the Indian Evidence Act. They cannot supersede the primary evidence and can be presented after the primary evidence. 

Some examples, of secondary evidence, include-

  • Certified Copies
  • Compared copies with the original documents. 
  • Oral accounts of the contents by the person who has witnessed the act. 

Section 65 of the Indian Evidence Act shares when the secondary evidence can be produced-

  • When the original documents are in possession of the
  1. A person against whom it is proved.
  2. A person who is not reachable. 
  3. A person who is under the boundation of the production of the documents. 
  • When the original document has been destroyed. 
  • When the original document has been lost.
  • When the original document cannot be produced, such as the challenge of movement. 

Some examples of secondary evidence include- 

  • Copies
  • Xeros/ Duplicates
  • Reports (Newspaper, etc.
  • Carbin Copy
  • Typed Copy
  • Voter’s list 
  • Tape recordings

6. Hearsay evidence –

It is considered second-hand information. It is not direct evidence; the witness or the person using it uses the information from a person who has the first- hand knowledge of the matter. The hearsay evidence is not admissible in a court of law. 

Section 60 of the evidence act states that the oral evidence given by the witness must be of a direct nature and therefore hearsay evidence does not hold much significance. 

There are a few exceptions given to the hearsay evidence:

  1. Admission: Section 17 of the Indian Evidence Act defines admission as a statement either in oral, electronic or document form that intends to give inference to any fact or an issue.
  2. Res Gestae: It refers to a situation in which the facts form part of the same transaction. For example, the statement of person A may be proved in court through another person B who has appeared as a witness in court.
  3. Dying Declaration: It refers to a situation which is on his deathbed, or is dying, or died, and cannot physically come to the court; the person with whom the dying person shares the information can use the heard information in the court. This measure finds its validity through Section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act.
  4. Confessions: As known commonly, it is referred to as a situation where a person has admitted to their guilt in court. Hearsay evidence can be applied in such a way that, if a person A who is guilty says/confesses something to another person B outside of court, person B can use the statement given by person A in court which can be considered as a testimony.
  5. Evidence that was given in the former proceedings: If a person dies or is unable to produce themselves in the court, then the statements given by such a person can be produced as a piece of evidence in the court.

7. Direct evidence – 

It is referred to as a fact that does not draw its inference from any other statement. And can be established on its own. Direct evidence works immediately supporting the truth without needing any further clarification or assistance. 

Some examples of direct evidence include – 

  1. Eyewitness testimony 
  2. Documents
  3. Videos
  4. Physical evidence

8. Indirect evidence –

It refers to evidence that helps in proving the facts by giving information that is a piece of indirect evidence. Deductive reasoning is applied in order to reach the final conclusion of the truth.

9. Circumstantial evidence –

It refers to that statement that helps in establishing the circumstances that are related to a particular piece of evidence. 

These circumstances should be fully proven and must be conclusive in nature. The concerned circumstances should be totally complete and should not have any gap in the evidence.

Essential components of the circumstantial evidence-

  1. The circumstance should be fully established. 
  2. The facts/ information should be compatible with the theory.
  3. The circumstances must be convincing. 

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The Indian judiciary is a holistic institution that aims to deliver justice to the citizens. The truth is based on evidence that is based on establishing the truth. Law professionals are given immense respect due to the nature of their job. More experience and knowledge add value to the professional’s portfolio. You can explore the  Master of Laws (LL.M.) – International Business and Finance Law course offered by upGrad to elaborate your portfolio. Having a specialisation adds to the portfolio.

You can also check out our free courses offered by upGrad in Management, Data Science, Machine Learning, Digital Marketing, and Technology. All of these courses have top-notch learning resources, weekly live lectures, industry assignments, and a certificate of course completion – all free of cost!

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