Coverage of this Article
-As a general rule, when a witness is presented before a court of law, their role is to provide factual information based on their personal knowledge or observations
Who Is An Expert?
-In the case of Ramesh Chandra Agarwal v. Regency Hospital Ltd
-The main role of an expert witness is to present their opinions before the court and provide adequate reasoning to support their conclusions.
Kinds Of Experts-
- Handwriting Expert
- Electronic Evidence Expert
- Fingerprints Expert
- Experts on Science and Art
-Expert witnesses play a crucial role in the legal system by providing specialized knowledge and opinions that assist the court in understanding complex or technical matters beyond its expertise
As a general rule, when a witness is presented before a court of law, their role is to provide factual information based on their personal knowledge or observations. They are expected to testify truthfully and objectively about the events or circumstances within their knowledge. Witnesses are not supposed to offer their opinions or speculations unless they are specifically qualified as expert witnesses
However, expert witnesses are an exception to this rule. Expert witnesses possess special knowledge and skills in specific fields and are called upon by the court to provide their opinions on matters that the court may not have sufficient knowledge about. While witnesses are expected to provide factual information, expert witnesses may be called upon to provide their opinions or interpretations in specific cases. Expert witnesses possess specialized knowledge, skills, or expertise in a particular field relevant to the case. They are allowed to offer their opinions or interpretations based on their expertise to assist the court in understanding complex or technical matters that require specialized knowledge. The Indian Evidence Act defines an expert as someone who assists the court in forming an opinion on scientific, artistic, foreign law, or handwriting-related matters. Various sections in the act, such as Section 47 and Section 45A, deal with specific aspects of expert opinions. For an expert witness's testimony to be considered, two prerequisites must be met: the subject matter must require an expert's opinion, and the witness must genuinely be an expert in that subject matter.
It is important to note that the admissibility and weight given to expert opinions may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific rules of evidence governing the court proceedings. The court ultimately determines the relevance and reliability of expert testimony and decides how much weight to assign to it in reaching a decision.
WHO IS AN EXPERT?
In the case of Ramesh Chandra Agarwal v. Regency Hospital Ltd., the Supreme Court held that an expert is someone who has acquired specialized knowledge in a particular field through careful study or years of practice. The court emphasized that formal educational qualifications are not the sole criteria for determining expertise. What matters is whether the person possesses adequate knowledge and skills in the specific subject matter.
The court recognized that expertise can be acquired through various means, and it is within the discretion of the judge to determine whether an individual qualifies as an expert in a particular case. The focus is on the person's ability to provide valuable insights and opinions based on their specialized knowledge, regardless of their formal educational background. This ruling highlights the flexible approach taken by the court in assessing the qualifications of an expert witness. It recognizes that expertise can be gained through practical experience, continuous learning, and in-depth understanding of a specific field. Ultimately, the court's aim is to ensure that the expert's opinion is reliable, relevant, and helpful in assisting the court in understanding complex matters.
The main role of an expert witness is to present their opinions before the court and provide adequate reasoning to support their conclusions. It is crucial for the expert to explain why and how they arrived at their opinion, as this helps the court understand the basis of their expertise and the reliability of their opinion. If an expert fails to provide sufficient reasoning, their opinion may be considered less persuasive or given less weight by the court.
Although the court may not possess the specialized knowledge of the expert, the expert's opinion serves as advisory in nature. It assists the court in comprehending complex or technical matters and aids the court in arriving at an informed decision. However, the court is not bound by the expert's opinion and has the discretion to accept or reject it based on its own assessment of the evidence. Experts, being different from witnesses of fact, can be examined by the court and subjected to cross-examination. During cross-examination, the credibility of the expert and their opinion can be challenged. This can be done by presenting contrary evidence, demonstrating inconsistencies in the expert's opinions, or utilizing other methods provided under the Indian Evidence Act, such as Section 146 or Section 155, which deal with impeaching the credibility of witnesses. Cross-examination allows for a thorough examination of the expert's opinions and provides an opportunity for challenging their credibility or demonstrating alternative perspectives.
KINDS OF EXPERTS
The examples highlight the different types of experts commonly called upon by the courts:
- Handwriting Expert: A handwriting expert is called upon when the court needs an opinion regarding the authenticity or authorship of a document. The expert compares the disputed handwriting with known samples and provides their opinion. The court may also rely on the testimony of a person acquainted with the handwriting of the accused.
- Electronic Evidence Expert: In cases involving electronic evidence, the court may call upon an expert to assess and interpret information stored or transmitted in electronic or digital form. These experts are guided by Section 79A of the Information Technology Act.
- Fingerprints Expert: When the court needs to determine the significance of fingerprints in a case, a fingerprints expert is called upon. Fingerprint evidence is considered highly reliable, as fingerprints are unique to individuals. However, the expert's opinion is corroborative in nature and should not be vague.
- Experts on Science and Art: Experts in various fields of science and art may be called upon to provide their opinions on matters that require specialized knowledge or experience. This can include medical experts in criminal cases who provide opinions on matters such as cause of death, injuries, timing, and physical condition. The court approaches medical expert evidence with caution, considering the expert's potential bias and giving weight to eyewitness testimony if it contradicts the expert opinion.
In all these cases, the opinions provided by the experts are considered relevant evidence for the court's consideration. However, the court is not bound by the expert's opinion and has the discretion to evaluate and weigh the evidence presented, including conflicting expert opinions and direct evidence from the case. The court will assess the credibility and reliability of the expert's opinions based on the specific circumstances and evidence in the case.
Expert witnesses play a crucial role in the legal system by providing specialized knowledge and opinions that assist the court in understanding complex or technical matters beyond its expertise. While witnesses of fact present concrete facts, expert witnesses are called upon to provide their opinions based on their specialized knowledge, experience, and analysis. Once admitted, the expert's role is to present their opinions before the court, supported by adequate reasoning and methodology. The court may examine and cross-examine expert witnesses to assess their credibility and the reliability of their opinions. The cross-examination may challenge the expert's creditworthiness, introduce contradictory evidence, or question the consistency of their opinions. Each expert brings their specialized knowledge to help the court form an opinion on matters that are beyond its understanding. However, the court retains the discretion to evaluate and weigh the expert opinions alongside other evidence in the case. The court is not bound by the expert's opinion and may rely on direct evidence or eyewitness testimony if it contradicts the expert's opinion.
It is important to approach expert testimony with caution, recognizing that it is advisory in nature and that the court bears the responsibility of assessing the reliability and probative value of such evidence. The courts have emphasized the need for precautions when relying on expert opinions, particularly recognizing the limitations and potential frailties of certain scientific disciplines. Overall, expert witnesses provide valuable insights and opinions to assist the court in making informed decisions based on the available evidence and specialized knowledge in specific fields. Their contributions enhance the fairness and accuracy of the judicial process, enabling the court to reach well-informed judgments.