Relevancy and Admissibility: an introductory overview under Indian Evidence Act
The expressions ‘relevancy’ and ‘admissibility’ are often taken to be synonymous. But they are not the same. Their legal implications are different. All admissible evidence is relevant but all relevant evidence is not admissible. Relevancy is the genus of which admissibility is the species.
Before going to further discussion in detail, we need to ascertain properly what is fact, what is fact in issue and what is relevant fact and also the related aspects thereof in view of the law of evidence.
(1) What is ‘Fact’?
‘Fact’ means an existing thing, event or action. The event or fact which is likely to occur in future and which neither occurred in the past nor is occurring at present, do not amount to ‘fact’ within the meaning of I.E.Act.
As per I.E.Act, the fact is divided into two categories as following:-
Physical Facts (External facts) Psychological facts (Internal facts)
[they can be perceived by five senses] [they are subject to consciousness]
Positive facts Negative facts
As per Sec.2 of Indian Evidence Act, Fact means and includes ----
(i) Any thing, state of things or relation of things, capable of being perceived by the senses. [Physical fact]
a) A, a man, saw something, it is a fact
b) B, a woman, said some words, it is fact.
c) C, a man, is riding on a horse, it is a fact.
d) Some chairs are arranged in a certain order in a certain place, it is a fact.
Ø These facts have their seat in some inanimate being or animate being, but such animate being should not be constituted by virtue of qualities.
(ii) Any Mental condition of which any person is conscious [Psychological fact].
a) A has a good reputation in his locality.
b) A fraudulently sold his car to B.
c) A has a bad opinion about B.
The feelings, opinions etc. can’t be perceived by the senses but can be felt by the mind, so these are psychological facts.
Ø These facts have their seat in an animate being by virtue of the qualities which constituted it as animate.
Psychological facts can further be divided into two categories, namely, positive facts and negative facts.
Positive or affirmative facts:- These facts are those facts whose existence are positive or affirmative. For example,
a) A killed B. There are blood strains on the floor. There is a knife in the hand of A.
b) Parliament of India is situated at New Delhi.
Negative facts:- These facts mean non-existence of positive facts. For example,
a) A and B are not seen together since last 30 days.
b) Nothing is heard from B.
c) No weapon is found in the house of A.
d) A, the complainant, failed to identify B, the accused, due to lack of light.
It is pertinent to mention that in the law of evidence ‘Facts’ include-
(i) the factum probandum (i.e. principal fact to be proved) and
(ii) the factum probans (i.e. the evidentiary fact from which the principal fact follows immediately or by inference)
(2) What is ‘Fact in issue’?
As per Sec.2 of Indian Evidence Act, the expression ‘fact in issue’ means and includes-----
Any fact from which ---
(i) By itself or
(ii) In connection with other facts
the existence, non-existence, nature or extent of -
a) any right or
b) any liability or
c) any disability
whether asserted or denied in any suit or proceeding, necessarily follows.
A is accused of the murder of B.
At his trial the following facts may be in issue:—
a) That A caused B’s death;
b) That A intended to cause B’s death;
c) That A had received grave and sudden provocation from B;
d) That A at the time of doing the act which caused B’s death, was, by reason of unsoundness of mind, incapable of knowing its nature.
Ø Fact in issue means the matters which are in dispute or which form the subject of investigation.
Ø When a case comes before the court, it is most important that the facts in controversy should first be determined as because the evidence tendered must be relevant and pertinent to the points in issue. Evidence of collateral facts which have no connection with the principal transaction must be excluded.
Ø Facts in issue are those facts which are---
a) alleged by one party and denied by the other in the pleadings in a civil case or
b) alleged by the prosecution and denied by the accused in a criminal case.
Ø Facts in issue are those facts out of which some legal right, liability or disability involved in the enquiry, necessarily arises and upon which a decision must be arrived at.
Ø What facts are facts in issue in a particular case, is a question to be determined by the substantive law or by the branch of law of procedure which regulates the law of pleadings, civil or criminal.
Ø It is the main fact which controls the case and its proof often depends on the relevant facts.
Ø In civil cases the matters in dispute are sorted out and framed into issues. They become facts in issue in civil suits. So the facts in issue are determined by the process of framing of issues.
Ø In criminal cases, the ingredients of the offences become the facts in issue as they are alleged by the prosecution and denied by the accused. The charge constitutes and includes facts in issue.
For example -
A, a cashier in a factory. It is his duty to bring money from the bank and distribute it among the labourers. One day A has brought Rs.2 lakhs from the bank and misappropriated Rs.1 lakh out of the money. He is prosecuted u/s-409 of I.P.C. for committing criminal breach of trust.
A pleaded in his defence that he brought the cash from the bank, but on that particular day he was to go on leave and as such he asked the Manager of the Company for handing over the cash to some other staff. Finally, as per the direction of the Manager of the company he handed over the same to B, the Asstt. Cashier.
Now the question is whether A is liable for criminal breach of trust. According to the definition of criminal breach of trust U/s-405 of I.P.C. the following ingredients may be found before a person is held guilty----
a) That he has been entrusted with some property.
b) That he has dishonestly misappropriated that property.
Now, in the instant case, it may be found that the court holds A liable for criminal breach of trust, it has to decide---
(i) Whether A handed over Rs.2 lakhs to B.
(ii) Whether A worked on the day in office.
(iii) Whether B worked on the day and distributed the money to the labourers.
||a) The fact that A handed over the amount of Rs.2 lakhs to B.
b) The fact that A did not work in the office on that day
c) The fact that B worked and distributed the money to the labourers on that day.
|The guilt or innocence of A follows and so these are facts in issue in the trial of A for criminal breach of trust.
(3) What is ‘Relevant fact’?
As per Sec.2 of Indian Evidence Act, One fact is said to be relevant to another when one is connected with the other in any of the ways referred to in the provisions of I.E.Act relating to relevancy of facts.
I.E.Act does not give any specific definition of ‘relevancy’ or ‘relevant fact’. It simply describes when one fact becomes relevant to another fact.
Sec.5 to Sec.55 of Indian Evidence Act provides several ways in which one fact may be connected with the other fact and therefrom the concept of relevant fact can be meted out. One fact is relevant to another fact if they are connected with each other in any of the ways as described in Sec.5 to Sec.55. If a fact is not so connected, it is not a relevant fact.
All facts are relevant which are capable of affording any reasonable presumption as to fact in issue or the principal matter in dispute
Ø Sir Stephen opines that the ‘relevancy’ means connection of events as cause and effect.
Ø Generally the facts relevant to an issue are those facts which are necessary for proof or disproof of a fact in issue. Such facts may be given in evidence directly or inferentially.
Ø What is really meant by ‘relevant fact’ is a fact that has a certain degree of probative force. They themselves are not facts in issue but may affect the probability of fact in issue.
Ø Relevant facts are subsidiary or collateral in nature, but pertinent or probable in giving rise to an inference of right or liability by a process of reasoning.
A fact may be relevant as it has connection with the fact in issue, but still it may not be admissible. For example, communication made by spouses during marriage or professional communication, communication made in official capacity relating to affairs of state etc. are not admissible though they may be relevant.
On the basis of logic and not of law it can be ascertained whether a particular fact is reasonably connected with the main issue or not. So logical relevancy signifies reasonable connection between facts. But logical relevancy is not the sole test of admitting such fact on the record of a court. Admissibility is founded on law not on logic. Many facts which are relied as probable and relevant, are rejected by law as irrelevant on the ground of public policy, precedent, remote relation or slight probative value. For examples,
a) Communication made between advocate and client under certain circumstances
b) Communication made by one spouse leally wedded to another
c) Confession made to a police officer
d) Insufficiently stamped document
The above facts are not legally relevant though they are reasonably connected with or logically relevant to the main issue.
On the other hand, there are certain facts which are logically irrelevant, but are admissible in record by the court under I.E.Act. For example,
a) The facts or questions permitted to be asked in cross examination to test the veracity or impeach the credit of a witness,
b) The facts which corroborate the evidence of a witness.
The above facts may not be relevant but admissible.
Difference between relevancy and admissibility:-
|(i) When facts are so related as to render the existence or non-existence of other facts probable according to common course of events or human conduct, they are called relevant.
(ii) It is founded on logic and human experience.
(iii) The question regarding relevancy has been enunciated in Sec.5 to Sec.55 of I.E.Act.
(iv) It signifies as to what facts are necessary to prove or disprove a fact in issue.
(v) It merely implies the relevant facts.
(vi) It is the cause.
(vii) The court may apply its discretion.
(viii) All admissible facts are relevant.
|(i) When facts have been declared to be legally relevant under I.E.Act, they become admissible.
(ii) It is founded on law not on logic.
(iii) The question of admissibility are provided in Sec.56 and the following sections.
(iv) It is a decisive factor between relevancy and proof.
(v) It implies what facts are admissible and what are not admissible.
(vi) It is the effect.
(vii) There is no scope for the court to apply discretion.
(viii) All relevant facts are not admissible. Only legally relevant facts are admissible.
Thus it is found that all legally relevant facts are admissible, but all logically relevant facts are not admissible. What is legally receivable is admissible, whether it is logically probative or not. For practical purpose, relevant fact means what is legally admissible in evidence. Only the evidence which is legally admissible should be received by the court.