India, like many nations around the globe, has witnessed a surge in digitalization and the use of electronic records in various sectors. Recognizing the importance of electronic data in contemporary times, the Indian legal framework has paved the way for the acceptance and admissibility of electronic records in legal proceedings. This article aims to shed light on the prevailing law surrounding the admissibility of electronic records in Indian courts.
The Indian Evidence Act, 1872: A Foundational Document
At the heart of the discourse on the admissibility of electronic records lies the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The Act was amended in 2000 to incorporate provisions concerning electronic records, mainly influenced by the rise of the Information Technology (IT) era.
1. Definition of Electronic Records
Under Section 2(t) of the IT Act, 2000, an electronic record is defined as “data, record or data generated, image or sound stored, received or sent in an electronic form or microfilm or computer-generated microfiche.”
2. Admissibility of Electronic Records
Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act plays a pivotal role in laying down the conditions for the admissibility of electronic records. For an electronic record to be admissible, certain criteria must be met:
- The electronic record must have been produced by a computer that was in regular use.
- The computer must have been operating properly, and if it was not, the malfunction should not affect the accuracy of the electronic record.
- Information used by the computer should be of a kind that it regularly operates on.
- Throughout the material part of the period, the computer should have been functioning properly.
Moreover, a certificate that identifies the electronic record and satisfies the conditions mentioned above needs to be signed by a person occupying a responsible official position in relation to the operation of the device. The certificate is vital for the court to consider the electronic evidence.
Over the years, various judgments by the Indian judiciary have interpreted and elaborated upon the admissibility of electronic records:
- Anvar P.V. vs. P.K. Basheer (2014): In this landmark judgment, the Supreme Court emphasized that electronic evidence without compliance with Section 65B is inadmissible. This means that electronic evidence, be it in the form of emails, documents, or any other electronic material, needs to have the certificate for it to be accepted in a court of law.
- Arjun Panditrao Khotkar vs. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal (2020): The Supreme Court reiterated the necessity of a certificate under Section 65B for the admissibility of electronic records but clarified that if a party is not in possession of the device from which the electronic document originated, then the requirement for the certificate can be relaxed.
Challenges and Way Forward
While the law has made significant strides, challenges persist. The dynamic nature of technology means that legal provisions need constant updating. Further, there’s a need for educating legal practitioners about the nuances of electronic evidence to ensure that justice is neither delayed nor denied because of technicalities.
In conclusion, as India moves deeper into the digital era, the admissibility of electronic records remains a crucial aspect of the legal landscape. By marrying technology with the robustness of legal frameworks, India aims to ensure justice in the face of rapidly changing technological landscapes.