Report No. 93
2.5. Right of public to every man's evidence.-
Traditionally, it has been the position of the law1 that the public has a right to every man's evidence. Obviously, a contrary rule would render orderly legal procedure both frustrating and futile. The interest of society favours the procuring from each person of relevant facts, in order to resolve the issue being litigated or investigated. This principle is perhaps implicitly assumed to be a postulate of fair trial.
As the Supreme Court of the United States has observed,2 there is a long standing principle that the Grand Jury has a right to every man's evidence, "except that evidence which is protected by a constitution, a common law or statutory privilege." In England, as early as 1612, Lord Bacon declare3 that "all subjects, without distinction of degrees, owe to the King tribute and service, not only of their deed and hand, but of their knowledge and discovery." Therefore, each citizen owed the King unfailing duty to reveal all his knowledge, including its sources. To this general principle, the law creates an exception in the public interest, whenever it grants a privilege in the realm of evidence.
1. Law Commission of India, 69th Report (Indian Evidence Act, 1872).
2. Braenngburg v. Haves, (1972) 33 L Ed 626.
3. Countess of Shrewsbury's case, (1613) 12 Coke 94: 2 How ST 769 (773).