Significance of Oral Evidence Under Indian Evidence Act, 1872


This post is written by Pragya Yadav, a third-year law student at IIMT, IP University, Delhi.


Oral Evidence has been defined under Section 3(1) of the Indian Evidence Act as the statements which are required to be made before the court by the witnesses in relation to matters of the fact under the inquiry. The term “oral evidence” means the words spoken by mouth.

The term ‘Oral’ is different from ‘Verbal’. The case of Queen-Empress v. Abdullah elaborated the difference between Verbal and Oral. The term ‘Verbal’ means by words; it is not necessary that the words should be spoken. if the term used in the section is oral then it might be that that statement should be confined to words spoken by mouth. The term verbal is a wider term than oral.

But under Section 119 of the Indian Evidence Act, a person who is unable to speak may give his evidence in any other manner in which he can make it intelligible, as by writing or by signs. The signs made in open court will be deemed as the Oral Evidence. Section 119 is the addition to the Oral Evidence.


According to Section 59 of the Indian Evidence Act, all facts, except for the contents of the documents or electronic records may be proved by the Oral Evidence. Under this Section, if in any matter there is any written documents, then, in that case, there can be no oral evidence made to prove the said document wrong.

As it was held in the case of Bhima Tima Dhotre v. The Pioneer Chemical co. that “Documentary evidence becomes meaningless if the writer has to be called in every case to give oral evidence of its contents. If that were the position, it would mean that, in the ultimate analysis, all evidence must be oral and that oral evidence would virtually be the only kind of evidence recognised by law. This provision would clearly indicate that to prove the contents of a document by means of oral evidence would be a violation of that section.”


Section 60 of the Act lays down that the Oral Evidence must be direct. In other words, this means that if the evidence is about any fact which has been heard, seen, perceived by any other senses or about an opinion. Then according to this section Oral Evidence will be valid only when such evidence has been given by the person who himself heard, saw, perceived or formed an opinion.


The credibility of the Oral Evidence of the witness will be doubted if the statement is in contradiction to any previously given statement by him/her. But where the statement is merely an elaboration of the statement recorded before the police with minor contradictions, then it will be held as reliable oral evidence.


Hearsay Evidence as a general rule is not accepted in the Indian Evidence Act. It is considered to be irrelevant and vague. The term ‘hearsay evidence’ has been defined in the case of Kalyan Kumar Gogoi v. Ashutosh Agnihotri & Anr as “The term „hearsay‟ is used with reference to what is done or written as well as to what is spoken and in its legal sense, it denotes that kind of evidence which does not derive its value solely from the credit given to the witness himself, but which rests also, in part, on the veracity and competence of some other person.”

Hearsay evidence is the indirect evidence which does not come from the knowledge from the person who has given the evidence but rather from someone else. It is hearsay evidence if the witness says that he himself did not hear or see the fact on which the evidence is being presented but rather he heard from someone else. Thus, hearsay evidence is an exception to Oral Evidence.

There are some exceptions to the rule of Hearsay. These exceptions are defined from Sections 17 to 39. They are:-

  1. Admissions
  2. Confessions
  3. Statements of persons dead (dying declarations)
  4. Entries in books of account kept in the course of business
  5. Entries in public registers or record
  6. Res Gestae
  7. Conspiracy
  8. Evidence in the former proceeding

However, Hearsay evidence may be used to corroborate substantive evidence. This was held in the case of Mukhtiar Singh v. State of Punjab; in this case, the witness stated that he saw the accused persons running towards the village carrying a weapon. He chased two of them to a certain distance but he did not see the occurrence of the attack as it happened when he chased the two accused persons but when he came immediately thereafter he learnt from eyewitnesses that the accused persons attacked the deceased and informed the police. Although his evidence is Hearsay, it was admissible for corroborating substantive evidence of the eyewitnesses.


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