Who Can Certify Electronic Evidence under Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act?

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

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With the digital age rapidly transforming the way we communicate, transact, and store information, electronic records have become a crucial component in judicial proceedings. In India, the admissibility of these electronic records in court is governed by Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. This section provides the procedural framework and requirements for electronic records to be considered as evidence. An essential aspect of this is the certification of such evidence.

Introduction to Section 65B

Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act pertains to the admissibility of electronic records. The section lays out conditions under which an electronic record can be used as evidence in court, and an integral part of these conditions is the need for a certificate.

Certification of Electronic Evidence

The role of certifying electronic evidence, according to Section 65B(4) of the Act, is as follows:

  1. Responsibility over the Computer System: The person certifying the electronic record must be responsible for producing it with the computer in question. This implies that they should have control over, or be in charge of, the operation of the computer when the electronic record was produced.
  2. Comprehensive Knowledge: The individual should have in-depth knowledge of the type of computer, the functioning of its systems, and the mechanisms involved in generating the electronic record in question. This ensures the record’s authenticity.
  3. Compliance with Conditions: The certifying individual must ensure that the electronic record meets the conditions stipulated in Section 65B(2), which include factors like the computer’s regular operation during the specified period, the electronic record being a regular output, and the system’s reliability.

Who can Certify?

  • System Administrators: These are individuals responsible for overseeing and ensuring the smooth functioning of computer systems. Their responsibilities also encompass the production of electronic records, making them suitable candidates for certification.
  • Authorized Personnel: Individuals who hold a position of authority over the computer system that generated the electronic record, like a manager or supervisor, can also certify the evidence.

The Importance of Certification

In the landmark judgment of Anvar P.V. vs. P.K. Basheer, the Supreme Court of India emphasized that electronic evidence without the requisite certification under Section 65B(4) cannot be admitted in court. This underscores the pivotal role the certification process plays in the legal admissibility of electronic records.

Conclusion

Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act establishes the importance and procedure of certifying electronic records for their admissibility in court. Those in charge of or having authority over computer systems, like system administrators or authorized personnel, are ideally positioned to certify such evidence. As digital records become more commonplace in legal proceedings, understanding and adhering to the certification process remains paramount.