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Acceptance of certified copy as evidence is not limited to production of certified copy of sale deed in evidence but also enables party producing it to rely on contents of document without examining vendor/vendee. Such certified copies are to be read in evidence –and their evidentiary value has to be evaluated in the light of other evidence adduced. This verdict was given by the Constitution Bench of 5 JJ of apex court while dealing with Land Acquisition Act (1 of 1894), S.51A in Cement Corporation of India Ltd. etc. v. Purya and others AIR 2004 SC 4830.

The apex court held that primary evidence is an evidence which the law requires to be given first; secondary evidence is evidence which may be given in the absence of that better evidence when a proper explanation of its absence has been given. However, there are exceptions to the aforementioned rule. Section 51-A of Act seeks to make an exception to the aforementioned rule. Under S. 51-A the certified copies of sale deeds which are otherwise secondary evidence may be brought on record evidencing a transaction. Such transactions in terms of the aforementioned provision may be accepted in evidence. Acceptance of an evidence is not a term of art. It has an etymological meaning. It envisages exercise of judicial mind to the materials on record.  

Section 51-A of the L.A. Act may be read literally and having regard to the ordinary meaning which can be attributed to the term 'acceptance of evidence' relating to transaction evidenced by a sale deed, its admissibility in evidence would be beyond any question. Only by bringing a documentary evidence in the record it is not automatically brought on the record, for bringing a documentary evidence on the record, the same must not only be admissible but the contents thereof must be proved in accordance with law. But when the statute enables a Court to accept a sale deed on the records evidencing a transaction, nothing further is required to be done. The admissibility of a certified copy of sale deed by itself could not be held to be inadmissible as thereby a secondary evidence has been brought on record without proving the absence of primary evidence. Even the vendor or vendee thereof is not required to examine themselves for proving the contents thereof. This, however, would not mean that contents of the transaction as evidenced by the registered sale deed would automatically be accepted. The legislature advisedly has used the word 'may.' A discretion, therefore, has been conferred upon a Court to be exercised judicially, i.e., upon taking into consideration the relevant factors. It is therefore incorrect to say that the contents of a sale deed should be a conclusive proof as regard the transaction contained therein or the Court must raise a mandatory presumption in relation thereto in terms of S. 51-A of the Act. It is discretionary in nature.         A registered document in terms of S. 51-A of the Act may carry therewith a presumption of genuineness. Such a presumption, therefore, is rebuttable. Raising a presumption, therefore, does not amount to proof; it only shifts the burden of proof against whom the presumption operates for disproving it. Only if the presumption is not rebutted by discharging the burden, the Court may act on the basis of such presumption. Even when in terms of the Evidence Act, a provision has been made that the Court shall presume a fact, the same by itself would not be irrebuttable or conclusive. The genuineness of a transaction can always fall for adjudication, if any question is raised in this behalf.


Note : The Constitution Bench  overruled a catena of earlier decisions , such as, Special Deputy Collector v. Kurra Sambasiva Rao, AIR 1997 SC 2625 : 1997 AIR SCW 2584; A. P. State Road Transport Corporation, Hyderabad v. P. Venkaiah, AIR 1997 SC 2600 : 1997 AIR SCW 2556; Meharban v. State of U.P., AIR 1997 SC 2664 1997 AIR SCW 2628; Indore Development Authority v. Satyabhama Bai, (1996) 10 SCC 751; Veeraiah v. State of A.P., (1995) 4 SCC 136; P. Ram Reddy v. Land Acquisition Officer, Hyderabad, 1995 AIR SCW 371 and Inder Singh v. Union of India, 1994 AIR SCW 1552.


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Category Civil Law, Other Articles by - Swami Sadashiva Brahmendra Sar