IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


2nd December, 2023 Polity


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Picture Courtesy: www.leadindia.law

Context: The principles laid down by the Supreme Court for examining the admissibility of secondary evidence under the Indian Evidence Act 1872, are centered around the hierarchy of evidence and the circumstances under which secondary evidence can be admitted when primary evidence is unavailable.


  • The principles and guidelines for admitting secondary evidence under the Indian Evidence Act 1872, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, are pivotal in understanding the hierarchy of evidence and the conditions under which secondary evidence is admissible.

Primary Evidence

  • Primary evidence outlined in Section 62 of the Indian Evidence Act, is the highest class of evidence. It refers to the actual document itself, presented for the court's inspection. This evidence type takes precedence over secondary evidence.
  • Examples of primary evidence include original documents like a birth certificate issued by a government authority. If a document is in parts, each part is considered primary evidence when produced for inspection.

Secondary Evidence

  • Section 63 of the Evidence Act defines secondary evidence. It serves as a substitute for primary evidence when the latter is unavailable. However, certain conditions must be met for its admissibility:
    • Availability Explanation: Secondary evidence can only be introduced if primary evidence is unavailable. The reason for the absence of primary evidence must be explained.
    • Lower Evidentiary Value: Generally considered of lower evidentiary value compared to primary evidence.
    • Types of Secondary Evidence: Certified copies, mechanically prepared copies, photographs, oral accounts, and various other forms of duplications serve as secondary evidence.
  • Examples of secondary evidence include copies of educational certificates or identification proofs used when the original birth certificate is lost.

Principles for Admissibility of Secondary Evidence (as interpreted by the Supreme Court):

  • Priority to Primary Evidence: The law prioritizes primary evidence over secondary evidence.
  • List of Admissible Secondary Evidence: Section 63 provides a list of documents acceptable as secondary evidence, admissible only in the absence of primary evidence.
  • Obligation to Produce Primary Evidence: As long as primary evidence is within reach or possession, no inferior proof should be given.
  • Exceptions for Admitting Secondary Evidence: Secondary evidence is allowed in exceptional cases when a party genuinely can't produce the original document, provided the non-availability is adequately explained.
  • Justification for Non-Availability: When the non-availability of a document is properly explained, secondary evidence can be allowed.
  • Verification of Secondary Evidence: For secondary evidence to be admissible, foundational evidence demonstrating it as a true copy of the original is necessary.
  • Explanation for Non-Production of Original: A credible explanation for the non-production of the original must be provided before introducing secondary evidence.
  • Proof of Contents: Mere production and marking of a document as an exhibit by the Court don't constitute proof of its contents; it must be proved according to the law.

These principles underscore the significance of primary evidence and the conditions under which secondary evidence can be admitted, ensuring the reliability and authenticity of evidence presented in court.


  • The principles emphasize the precedence of primary evidence and the necessity to provide valid reasons for the unavailability of such evidence before resorting to secondary evidence, ensuring reliability and authenticity in legal proceedings.

Must Read Articles:

SECTION 106 OF THE EVIDENCE ACT: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/section-106-of-the-evidence-act

SECTION 27 EVIDENCE ACT: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/section-27-evidence-act


Case Study:

Mary is involved in a lawsuit where she needs to prove ownership of a valuable antique piece that was stolen from her possession. Unfortunately, she lost the original bill of sale and ownership documents in a fire accident at her residence. To support her claim, Mary presents the following evidence:

1. Photographs: High-resolution images of the antique piece showcasing unique markings and distinctive features.

2. Witness Testimony: Statements from two neighbours who frequently visited Mary's home and can confirm the presence of the antique piece before it was stolen.

3. Expert Appraisal: A certified antique expert's assessment confirms the authenticity and value of the antique piece based on photographs and detailed descriptions.

Q. Which of the following statements regarding secondary evidence in this scenario is true?

A) None of the presented evidence can be considered secondary evidence.

B) Only the witness testimony qualifies as secondary evidence.

C) All three presented types of evidence qualify as secondary evidence.

D) Both the photographs and expert appraisal qualify as secondary evidence.

Answer: D


The correct answer is D) Both the photographs and expert appraisal qualify as secondary evidence.

Secondary evidence refers to evidence that is not the original document or item but serves as a substitute to prove the contents of the original. In this case:

1. Photographs: These high-resolution images serve as secondary evidence as they replicate the visual aspects of the original antique piece, helping establish its identity and unique features.

2. Expert Appraisal: Even though the expert appraisal is based on descriptions and photographs rather than the original documents, it serves as secondary evidence by confirming the authenticity and value of the antique piece.

3. Witness Testimony: Witness testimony typically falls under primary evidence, as it directly reflects personal observations or experiences. It doesn't strictly fit the definition of secondary evidence in this scenario.

By understanding the nature of secondary evidence and its role in legal proceedings, it becomes apparent that both the photographs and expert appraisal serve as secondary evidence to support Mary's claim of ownership.