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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A tape-recorded conversation is a form of an electronic record. The Information Technology Act of 2000 describes the term “electronic records”.
  • Electronic records, including Tape-recorded conversations, are admissible under the Indian Evidence Act.
  • Through its judgments, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has laid down certain parameters based on which the admissibility of Tape-recorded conversations could be tested.

INTRODUCTION

A tape-recorded conversation is a form of an electronic record. The Information Technology Act of 2000 describes the term“electronic records”. According to the Act, electronic records comprise data, sound, and pictures created or recorded in electronic form and communicated or received in electronic form. Electronic records are admissible under the Indian Evidence Act. Previously, no provision in the Indian Evidence Act addressed the admissibility, nature, and evidentiary value of an electromagnetic device. However, how crimes are committed has evolved dramatically throughout time. As a result, tape recordings are now considered evidence.

DEFINITION OF EVIDENCE

The term ‘Evidence’ has been defined under Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act as follows:

I. All statements that the Court permits or requires to be made before it by witnesses, about matters of fact under inquiry; such statements are called oral evidence

II. All the documents including electronic records produced for the inspection of the court; such documents are called documentary evidence

Section 3 defines oral evidence as evidence that must be documented under Section 60 of the IEA. Oral Evidence refers to all of the reasons that the courts demand or foresee those witnesses must provide in their nature for the truth of the facts to be established. Oral evidence is evidence that the witness has seen or heard. Oral evidence should always be quick or positive. When the primary fact in the issue is expressly recognized, evidence is immediate.

Documentary evidence, on the other hand, refers to all of the papers that are submitted to the courts for record examination. Documentary evidence will indicate the genuine nature of the meetings and their cognizance, and such evidence takes precedence over any oral testimony. Aside from these, the other evidence is primary evidence, which, according to S. 62, IEA, is deemed to be top-tier evidence.

TAPE RECORDINGS AND THEIR IMPORTANCE AS EVIDENCE

With the emergence of digital technology, tape-recorded exchanges have emerged as one of the constructive and beneficial pieces of evidence in today's world. To adapt to the current surge in atrocities, it is essential to stay up to speed with more evolved methods and to make every effort to evaluate information that is relevant and that may have been collected via the application of such innovation. There is no question that some sorts of evidence are more likely to be tampered with.

The scenario may be tailored to the present technological condition, and the need of the hour is to reduce violence by enabling the use of tape recorders. However, approval must be granted in the framework of appropriate law.

Another option would be to make further changes to the law of hearsay in the Indian Evidence Act itself to fit the situation. The rationale offered is that innovation should be utilized properly to arrest wrongdoing rather than completely shutting it out, making law enforcement much more difficult. There must be some form of give and take, and achieving perfection is quite tough.

Before ruling on the admissibility of Tape-recorded evidence, several elements must be considered-

  • Fairness.
  • Acceptance of Police Tactics.
  • Statements, Documents, or Substantial Evidence's credibility.

Tape-recorded evidence and its admissibility have mostly gone overlooked in this field or topic of unlawfully acquired pieces of evidence. This is essential since it is a process routinely employed by police to obtain information. It might be for a variety of reasons, such as refuting a witness or confirming the crime, i.e., proving the fact in issue in court.

IMPORTANT JUDGEMENTS

1. Ram Singh & Ors vs Col. Ram Singh [3 1985 SCR Supl. (2) 399]

In this case, the Apex Court laid down that:

  • The voice of the speaker must be recognized by the person who recorded or by others who identify his voice for the admissibility of Tape-Recorded evidence. If the creator refuses to identify the voice, it will need extremely precise verification to verify whether or not it was indeed the speaker's voice.
  • The correctness of the tape-recorded statement must be shown by the person who recorded the record by adequate direct or circumstantial evidence.
  • Any chance of tampering with or deletion of a portion of a tape-recorded statement must be ruled out; otherwise, the remark may be rendered out of context and therefore inadmissible.
  • The statement must be relevant, according to Evidence Act requirements.
  • The recorded cassette must be tightly sealed and maintained in safe or official possession.
  • The speaker's voice must be discernible and not masked or distorted by other noises or disturbances.

2. N. Sri Rama Reddy v. V.V. Giri [1971 AIR 1162]

In this case, the question of whether the tape-recorded evidence is primary and direct was addressed. The court ruled that, like any other document, the tape-recorded would be admissible as primary and direct evidence of what was stated and picked up by the receiver.

3. Zhauddin Burhanuddin Bukhari v. Brijmohan Ramdas Mehra [1975 AIR 1778]

In this case, the Supreme Court stated that the tape-recorded conversations could be used as satisfactory evidence of what was found recorded and, if not tampered with, could be subject to the provisions of the Evidence Act and be used as a piece of substantive evidence. If there is any dispute about the recording's validity, then it must be proven.

4. State (N.C.T. Of Delhi) v. Navjot Sandhu[2005 11 SCC 600]

In this case, the Supreme Court held that if evidence was acceptable, it did not matter how it was acquired, citing the decision in R.M. Malkani vs. State of Maharashtra (1973 AIR 157). It was also stated that there would always be a word of caution, which is that the Judge would have the discretion to exclude evidence in a criminal proceeding if the rigid requirements of admission would work unjustly against the accused.

CONCLUSION

One of the good and beneficial developments in law has been the use of tape-recorded conversations as evidence. Given today's crimes, it is critical to stay up to date on the newest technologies and to make every effort to accept evidence that is relevant and may have been gained via the use of such technology. There is no doubt about the possibility of tampering with such evidence. Their significance and value, however, cannot be overstated. It is clear that the court has made significant efforts to create suitable standards on the admissibility of tape recordings and other electronic data.


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