Criminal Trident Pack: IPC, CrPC and IEA by Sr. Adv. G.S Shukla and Adv. Raghav Arora
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Key Takeaways

  • Section 62 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 considers primary evidence to be the most crucial type of evidence.
  • A carbon copy of a signature, defined as a copy generated by a mechanical method that confirms its accuracy, is a piece of secondary evidence under Section 63(2) of the Indian Evidence Act.
  • The Supreme court has held that the carbon duplicate created in the same manner as the original document, and signed by all parties, takes on the characteristics of the original.

Introduction

A carbon copy is a carbon paper duplicate of a document, letter, or other such item or a text document replica. The phrase was originally applied to physical text duplications, but it is now most generally applied to emails. A carbon copy of a signature, defined as a copy generated by a mechanical method that confirms its accuracy, is a piece of secondary evidence under Section 63(2) of the Indian Evidence Act.

In the anti-bribery and corruption field, the frequency of carbon copy convictions has increased dramatically in recent years. The Apex court has time and again held that signed carbon copies of documents can be relied upon as evidence in cases. As per the Evidence Act, a carbon copy would be classified as secondary evidence and is subject to provisions relating to the same.

Evidence that has been replicated from an original document or replaced for an original item is referred to as secondary evidence. It is a copy of, or substitute for, an original document or piece of proof provided to demonstrate a certain issue in a legal case.Original, or primary, evidence is preferred by courts. They make every effort to avoid using secondary evidence. This method is known as the best evidence rule. Nonetheless, a court may permit a party to add supplemental evidence in a variety of circumstances.

Relevant Provisions of the Indian Evidence Act

The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, through its various provisions lays down the types of evidences and the guidelines for their admissibility in courts. The following provisions provide clarity into the inclusion of carbon copies as evidence in trials.

Section 62

Section 62 considers primary evidence to be the most crucial type of evidence. Such evidence is an authentic document that must be presented to the court for examination. Furthermore, it is permitted without prior notification. By definition, primary evidence either proves or disproves a fact. In the instance of direct evidence, a specific fact is accepted without any explanation to tie to the fact. Because it is the real item, primary evidence, also known as best evidence, is the greatest accessible substantiation of an object's existence. It varies from secondary evidence, which is a duplicate or replacement for the original.

Explanation 2 of this section holds that copies of the original document would be regarded as secondary evidence and not be directly admissible without question. It also states that when a number of documents are created using the same consistent strategy, such as printing, lithography, or photography, each one serves as primary proof of the contents of the others.

Section 63

Secondary evidence is considered to be of inferior quality under Section 63. It implies that, even after providing secondary evidence, primary evidence must be generated to fill in the gaps. In the absence of primary evidence, such material may be presented; nonetheless, a notice must be issued. This section exhaustively covers all of the secondary evidence categories permitted by the Act. It is frequently presented in the absence of primary evidence, and it is not the greatest type of proof.

On the surface, secondary evidence indicates and includes the following:

  1. Certified copies provided in accordance with the conditions set out below.
  2. Copies created from the original using mechanical methods that verify the copy's correctness, and copies compared to such copies.
  3. Copies of or comparisons to the original.
  4. Document counterparts as against the parties who did not implement them.
  5. Oral accounts of a document's contents supplied by someone who has seen it.

Clause 2 of this section discusses mechanically created copies and duplicates compared to such copies. In the former situation, because the duplicate is created from the original, accuracy is guaranteed. Photographic, lithographic, cyclostyle, and carbon copies fall within this group.

Section 65

Section 65 addresses how to provide secondary evidence when original evidence is unavailable. However, the party cannot seek Court approval to enter secondary evidence till Section 65 is exhausted. In other words, the party must demonstrate a legitimate reason for filing the supplementary evidence, and the Court has the power to allow it.

Landmark Judgements

The following judgements have delved into the question of admissibility of carbon copies and the category of evidence it falls under.

Chumman Singh & Others v State of Bihar[MANU/BH/0206/2006]

The Patna High Court examined whether a carbon copy of a document constituted primary evidence of medical certificates and whether it may be accepted into evidence without demanding for the original and without adhering to Section 65 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

The Patna High Court cited the case of Prithi Chand vs. State of HP [MANU/SC/0420/1989], in which the Supreme Court ruled that a carbon copy created by one uniform procedure of a doctor's certificate delivered in fulfilment of professional obligations is admissible in evidence under Explanation 2 of Section 62.

As a result, the Patna High Court supported the Session Court's ruling, stating that, according to explanation 2 to Section 62 of the Evidence Act, it is primary evidence of the original and hence admissible in court as such. They however, cannot be considered duplicates of a common original.

Prithi Chand vs State Of Himachal Pradesh [1989 AIR 702]

In the instant case, because the learned Sessions Judge believed that obtaining the presence of a party would take too long, he allowed the prosecution to establish the medical certificate through a witness who was familiar with her handwriting and signature. The carbon copy of the document was made by one process and had her signature. Section 32 of the Evidence Act states that a statement, written or oral, made by an individual in the discharge of professional obligations whose attendance cannot be obtained without undue delay is pertinent and admissible in evidence.

Furthermore, because one carbon copy was produced using a consistent technique, it qualified as main evidence under Section 62 of the Evidence Act. As a result, the medical certificate was held to be unquestionably admissible as evidence.

Mohinder Singh v Jaswant Kaur and Ors. [Civil Appeal No(s). 6706/2013]

The panel, led by Justice Deepak Gupta, was hearing an appeal against a Punjab and Haryana High Court ruling in a property dispute case. The carbon copy was rejected as evidence by the Supreme Court. According to Section 62 of the Evidence Act, a carbon copy of a document signed by both parties cannot be considered an original document.

The Supreme Court set aside the order and ruled that a signed carbon duplicate of a document is equivalent to the original and can be used as evidence. According to Section 62 of the Indian Evidence Act, a carbon copy in this form shall be admitted as primary evidence. The bench went on to state that the High Court decision was completely erroneous and violates Section 62 of the Evidence Act. The carbon duplicate was created in the same manner as the original document, and once signed by all parties, it takes on the characteristics of the original. The Supreme Court also cited an explanatory paragraph in Section 62 that discussed copying and printing from the original text.

Conclusion

Evidence is an essential component of every case, whether criminal or civil since it validates a fact. The facts can be utilized as evidence to both decide and prove the contested facts. Evidence gives weight to the facts that are offered as evidence. The Indian Evidence Act elaborates on the notion of primary and secondary evidence, including its meaning, what it might comprise, and when it can be used in place of primary evidence.

Through the relevant provisions and case laws, one can conclude that the admissibility of this type of evidence in the form of carbon copies relies on its compliance with explanation 2 of Section 62 of the Indian Evidence Act. Carbon copies of a common original may not be considered primary evidence, but if the copies were all created out of a uniform process at the same time as the original they would be admissible as primary evidence during a proceeding.


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