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Difference between Bhartiya Sakshaya Adhiniyan and The Indian Evidence Act

Difference between Bhartiya Sakshaya Adhiniyan and the Indian Evidence Act

Indian Evidence Act (IEA), 1872

The Indian Evidence Act, of 1872, is a comprehensive legal framework that outlines the rules and principles governing the admissibility, relevance, and evaluation of evidence in Indian courts. Drafted by Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, the IEA was enacted to standardize the evidentiary process across the country, ensuring a consistent approach to the handling of evidence in both civil and criminal proceedings.

Key Features of the IEA:

  • Relevance and Admissibility: The Act establishes criteria for determining what evidence is relevant and admissible in court. It includes provisions on the types of evidence that can be presented, such as oral evidence, documentary evidence, and material evidence.
  • Burden of Proof: It outlines the responsibilities of the parties in proving their case, including the concepts of the burden of proof and the presumption of innocence.
  • Witness Testimony: The Act provides detailed guidelines on the examination, cross-examination, and re-examination of witnesses, ensuring that their testimony is reliable and credible.
  • Documentary Evidence: The IEA includes specific provisions for the admissibility of documents, including public and private documents, and the use of certified copies.
  • Presumptions: It defines various legal presumptions, which help courts make decisions in the absence of complete evidence.

Bhartiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA), 2023

In August 2023, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the Bhartiya Sakshya Bill, which was aimed at overhauling the Indian Evidence Act of 1872. The Bhartiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA), 2023, modernizes and simplifies the rules of evidence to better align with contemporary legal and technological advancements. This new legislation retains many provisions of the IEA while introducing significant modifications and additions to address the evolving nature of evidence, particularly in the context of digital and electronic records.

Key Changes and Features of the BSA:

  • Inclusion of Electronic and Digital Evidence: The BSA explicitly incorporates electronic and digital records as primary forms of evidence, reflecting the increasing reliance on digital data in legal proceedings.
  • Simplification and Streamlining: The new act aims to simplify the evidentiary process, making it more transparent and efficient. This includes changes in definitions, procedures, and the admissibility of certain types of evidence.
  • Modernized Definitions: Definitions of key terms such as “document” and “evidence” have been updated to include electronic and digital formats, ensuring they are treated on par with traditional forms of evidence.
  • Revised Sections: The BSA modifies, repeals, and adds various sections to address contemporary legal challenges. For example, sections dealing with electronic records (Sections 65A and 65B in the IEA) have been significantly revised to reflect current technological realities.
  • Expansion of Admissibility: The BSA broadens the scope of admissibility for electronic records, making it easier for courts to accept and evaluate digital evidence. This includes provisions for the admissibility of video recordings, server logs, emails, and other forms of electronic communication.

Reasons for Introducing the Bhartiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA), 2023

The introduction of the Bhartiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA), 2023, aims to address several shortcomings of the Indian Evidence Act (IEA) of 1872 and adapt to the changing legal and technological landscape. Here are the primary reasons for bringing in the new law:

1. Technological Advancements

  • Digital Evidence: With the rapid growth of technology, the nature of evidence has evolved significantly. Digital and electronic records, such as emails, digital contracts, social media posts, and server logs, play a crucial role in modern legal proceedings. The IEA, being over 150 years old, lacked comprehensive provisions to adequately handle such forms of evidence.
  • Cybercrimes: The increase in cybercrimes necessitates a legal framework that can effectively deal with digital evidence, ensuring that courts can admit and evaluate it properly.

2. Simplification and Modernization

  • Outdated Provisions: Many provisions of the IEA are outdated and do not reflect contemporary realities. Simplifying and modernizing the language and structure of evidence law makes it more accessible and understandable for legal practitioners, judges, and laypersons.
  • Streamlined Procedures: The BSA aims to streamline the evidentiary process, reducing complexities and enhancing the efficiency of judicial proceedings. This helps in speeding up trials and reducing the backlog of cases.

3. Uniformity and Clarity

  • Consistent Definitions: Updating definitions to include electronic and digital formats ensures clarity and uniformity in the interpretation and application of the law. This prevents ambiguities that could arise from outdated terminology.
  • Clear Guidelines: Providing clear guidelines for the admissibility, relevance, and evaluation of digital evidence ensures that all parties have a consistent understanding of what is required for evidence to be considered valid.

4. Enhancing Judicial Efficiency

  • Timely Justice: By modernizing evidence law, the BSA aims to facilitate the faster resolution of cases. Efficient handling of digital evidence can significantly reduce the time taken to examine and cross-examine evidence, leading to more timely justice.
  • Reducing Burden: Clearer rules and streamlined processes reduce the burden on courts, allowing them to handle cases more effectively and efficiently.

5. Addressing Contemporary Challenges

  • Evolving Crimes: The nature of crimes has evolved, with many modern crimes involving complex digital footprints. The BSA equips the legal system to handle such complexities effectively.
  • Global Standards: Aligning Indian evidence law with global standards ensures that India remains competitive and credible in international legal contexts. This is particularly important in cases involving cross-border digital evidence.

6. Strengthening Legal Framework

  • Robust Legal System: A robust and modern legal framework enhances the credibility and reliability of the judicial system. This is crucial for maintaining public trust and ensuring that justice is served fairly and effectively.
  • Admissibility of New Forms of Evidence: By explicitly incorporating provisions for electronic records and other modern forms of evidence, the BSA strengthens the legal framework, making it more adaptable to future technological advancements.

Key Features of the Bhartiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA), 2023

  1. Inclusion of Digital and Electronic Evidence
    • Recognizes digital evidence like emails, social media posts, and server logs.
    • Establishes guidelines for maintaining the chain of custody for digital evidence.
  2. Enhanced Witness Protection
    • Introduces measures to protect witnesses, including anonymity and protection programs.
  3. Simplified Procedures
    • Streamlines evidence submission processes to reduce delays in legal proceedings.
  4. Use of Technology in Evidence Collection
    • Encourages the use of modern technology for evidence collection and preservation.
  5. Admissibility of New Forms of Evidence
    • Expands the types of admissible evidence to include modern forms of communication and data.
  6. Safeguards Against Evidence Tampering
    • Implements strict penalties for tampering with evidence.
  7. Transparent and Fair Trials
    • Ensures fair trials by providing clear guidelines on the admissibility and relevance of evidence.

Key Modifications 

  1. Deletions and Additions
    • Deleted Sections:
      • Section 3(j): India
      • Section 82: Presumption as to document admissible in England without proof of seal or signature
      • Section 88: Presumption as to telegraphic messages
      • Section 113: Proof of cession of territory
      • Section 166: Power of jury or assessors to put questions
    • New Sections:
      • Simplified and transparent judicial trial processes.
      • Enhanced focus on electronic and digital evidence.

Major Changes in Three Facets

  1. Status of Documents and Electronic Evidence
    • The BSA redefines and expands the scope of documents to include electronic and digital records explicitly.
    • Electronic records are now considered primary evidence alongside traditional forms of evidence.
  2. Section 65B (Electronic Records)
    • Emphasis on the admissibility of electronic records.
    • Electronic records are treated on the same footing as paper records, a significant development in evidence law.
  3. Section 27 (Recovery/Discovery on Confession by Accused Before Police)
    • No specific modifications were mentioned but implied enhancements in the process and admissibility of electronic records.

Difference between Bhartiya Sakshaya Adhiniyan and The Indian Evidence Act

  1. Definition of “Document”
    • IEA (Sec. 3): Defined document in a traditional sense, including writings, maps, inscriptions, etc.
    • BSA (Sec. 2(1)(d)): Expanded definition to explicitly include electronic and digital records such as emails, server logs, and digital messages.
  2. Definition of “Evidence”
    • IEA (Sec. 3): Evidence includes oral evidence and documents, including electronic records.
    • BSA (Sec. 2(1)(e)): Broadened to include statements given electronically and documents produced in digital form.
  3. Primary Evidence
    • IEA (Sec. 62): Primary evidence is the document itself.
    • BSA (Sec. 57): Expanded to include electronic or digital records stored simultaneously or sequentially, and video recordings.
  4. Secondary Evidence
    • IEA (Sec. 63): Included certified copies, counterparts, and oral accounts.
    • BSA (Sec. 58): Added oral and written admissions, evidence by expert persons, and additional forms of secondary evidence.
  5. Admissibility of Electronic Records
    • IEA (Sec. 65A & 65B): Focused on the conditions under which electronic records can be admitted.
    • BSA (Sec. 61 & 63): Broadened the scope and conditions for admitting electronic records, emphasizing that they should not be denied admissibility on the grounds of being electronic.

Conclusion

The transition from the Indian Evidence Act, of 1872 to the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, of 2023 represents a significant modernization of evidence law in India. By explicitly including and expanding the scope of electronic and digital records, the BSA aims to address the complexities and realities of the digital age. This transformation is designed to enhance the transparency and efficiency of judicial processes, reflecting the legislative intent to adapt to technological advancements and ensure the admissibility of electronic evidence in legal proceedings.

Also Read: 
Rights of undertrial prisoners in India
How To Send A Legal Notice In India

Sommya Kashyap
Sommya Kashyap
A law enthusiast
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