Report No. 69
Scheme of the Act
4.1. Object of legal proceedings-determination of rights and liabilities.-
The object of legal proceedings is the determination of disputed rights and liabilities on facts.1 Those facts may be themselves in issue,2 or they may be facts relevant to the facts in issue.3
1. Section 3.
2. Section 3.
3. Section 3.
4.2. Basic principle-facts in issue and relevant facts.-
So far as facts in issue are concerned, they are facts from which, either by themselves or in connection with other facts, the existence, non-existence, nature or extent of any right, liability or disability, asserted or denied in any suit or proceeding, necessarily follows. They constitute such a state of things-physical or psychological-that the existence of a disputed right or liability would be a legal inference from them. Facts which are not directly in issue may, however, affect the probability of the existence of the fact in issue, and thus be used as foundations of inferences respecting facts in issue.
These facts are described in the Act as "relevant facts". The word "relevant" means that any two facts to which it is applied are so related to each other that, according to the common course of events, one either taken by itself or in connection with other facts, proves or renders probable the past, present or future existence or non-existence of the other.1 In general, under the Act, evidence can be given only as regards facts in issue and "such other facts as are hereinafter declared to be relevant".2 This emphasis on "facts in issue or relevant facts", is intended to exclude the reception of other facts which might tend to distract the attention of the tribunal and to waste its time. The law of evidence is framed with a view to restraining the trial within practical limits.3
1. Stephen Digest of Evidence, Article 1.
2. Section 5.
3. Managers Asylum Districts v. Hill, 47 Law Times, House of Lords 29 (34) (Lord O'Hagan).
4.3. Relevant facts.-
Having laid down these basic principles for confining the evidence to facts in issue or relevant facts, the Act proceeds to indicate what facts are to be regarded as relevant. Broadly speaking, these facts are-
(a) connected with the issue;1
(c) statements by persons who cannot be called as witnesses;3
(d) statements under special circumstances;4
(e) judgments in other cases;5
1. Sections 5 to 16.
2. Sections 17 to 31.
3. Sections 32 and 33.
4. Sections 34 to 39.
5. Sections 40 to 44.
6. Sections 45 to 51.
7. Sections 52 to 55.
4.4. Stephen's view.-
Stephen's work on the Law of Evidence was originally undertaken in connection with the drafting of the Indian Evidence Act. Sections 6 to 11 of the Act contain the most important provisions as to relevancy. We need not quote these sections; but the emphasis on "highly probable" found in section 11, is noteworthy. Section 11 reads-
"Facts not otherwise relevant are relevant:
(1) if they are inconsistent with any fact in issue or relevant fact;
(2) if, by themselves or in connection with other facts, they make the existence or non-existence of any fact in issue, or relevant fact highly probable or improbable".
4.5. By 1876, when the first edition of his Digest of the Law of Evidence was published, Stephen had amended the definition of relevancy to read as follows-
"Facts, whether in issue or not, are relevant to each other when one is, or probably may be, or probably may have been-
The cause of the others; The effect of the other; An effect of the same cause; A cause of the same effect;
Or when the one shows that the other must or cannot have occurred, or probably does or did exist, or not;
Or that any fact does or did exist, or not, which in the common course of events would either have caused or have been caused by the other:
Provided that such facts do not fall within the exclusive rule contained in Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6; or that they do fall within the exceptions to those rules contained in those Chapters".
4.6. In the Introduction to the first edition of his Digest, Stephen stated the meaning of "relevance" in the following terms:
"A fact is relevant to another fact when the existence of the one can be shown to be the cause, or one of the causes, or the effect or one of the effects, of the existence of the other, or when the existence of the one, whether alone or together, with other facts, renders the existence of the other highly probable, or improbable, according to the common course of events".
In later editions of the Digest, however, Stephen adopted a much shorter definition of the word "relevant", namely:
"The word 'relevant' means that any two facts to which it is applied are so related to each other that according to the common course of events one either taken by itself or in connection with other facts proves or renders probable the past, present or future existence or non-existence of the other".
4.7. It will be noted that at first-vide section 11, Indian Evidence Act1-Stephen was disposed to emphasise cases in which the existence of one fact was rendered 'highly' probable or improbable by reason of the existence of another. But, in his later views that he expressed on the matter-vide the later editions of the Digest-he was content to refer merely to probability.2
Of course, 'relevancy' and 'admissibility' do not always coincide: facts logically relevant may be rejected for reasons of policy.3
1. See supra.
2. See supra.
3. This aspect will be discussed in detail under section 3, infra.
4.8. It is also to be noted that, although Stephen (in later editions of the Digest) omitted the word 'highly' from his definition of 'relevant', so as to apply the term 'relevance' to a connection of mere probability as opposed to high probability, Article 2 of his Digest contains a proviso-"that the Judge may exclude evidence of facts which, though relevant or deemed to be relevant to the issue, appear to him to be too remote to be material under all the circumstances of the case."