Documentary evidence in forensic science: It is of three types –
They refer to ill- health, insanity, age, death, etc. They are accepted in a Court of law, only when they are issued by a qualified registered medical practitioner. The certificate of ill-health should contain exact nature of illness, and probable period of expected absence. This is one of the documentary evidence.
The signature or left thumb impression of the patient should be taken at the bottom of the certificate. A medical practitioner is legally bound to give a death certificate, stating the cause of death without charging fee, if a person whom he has been attending during his last illness dies (Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1970).
Death certificate should not be issued by a doctor without inspecting the body and satisfying himself that person is really dead. The certificate should not be delayed, even if the doctor’s fees is not paid. The certificate should not be given if the doctor is not sure of the cause of death, or if there is the least suspicion of foul play.
In such cases, the matter should be reported to the police. Issuing or signing a false certificate is punishable under Section. 197, I.P.C. This kind of documentary evidence is quite vital.
The Medical Certification of Death
In India, the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death is used. The cause of death is divided into two main sections. (1) Immediate cause. This is subdivided into three parts, namely (a), (b), (c). If a single morbid condition completely explains death, this will be written on line (a) of part I, and nothing more need be written in the rest of Part I or in Part II, e.g. lobar pneumonia. The documentary evidence here is helpful for the case.
Next consider whether the immediate cause is a complication or delayed result of some other cause. If so, enter the antecedent cause in Part I line (b). Sometimes there will be three stages in the course of events leading to death. If so line (c) will be completed. The underlying cause to be tabulated is always written last in Part I. (II) Other significant conditions contributing to the death but not related to the disease or condition causing it. This kind of documentary evidence plays vital role.
Medico-legal Report Documentary evidence
They are reports prepared by a doctor on the request of the investigating officer, usually in criminal cases, e.g., assault, rape, murder, etc. The examination of an injured person or a dead body is made, when there is a requisition from a police officer or Magistrate.
These reports consist of two parts:
(1) the facts observed on examination (all relevant, objective descriptions including important negative findings),
(2) the opinion drawn from the facts.
These reports will be attached to the file relating to the case and the file is produced in the Court. The report, which will form the documentary evidence, will be open to the scrutiny of the defense lawyer. It will not be admitted as evidence, unless the doctor attends the Court and testifies to the facts under oath.
Great care should be taken in writing the reports to avoid any loose wording or careless statement. This gives a chance to the defense lawyer to use them to his own advantage. The report should give the date, time and place of examination and the name of individuals who identified the person or the dead body. Exaggerated terms, superlatives, etc. should not be used.
The opinion should be based on the facts observed by himself, and not on information obtained from other sources. In an injury case, if it is not possible to give an opinion immediately, the person should be kept under observation, and necessary investigations should be done before giving the report, which becomes a part of documentary evidence.
The report should show competence, lack of bias and offer concrete professional advice. The report should be made soon after the examination. It should be clear, concise, complete, legible and it should avoid technical terms as far as possible. Relevant negative information should also be given. The doctor should sign or initial at the bottom of each page, if the report exceeds one page in length.
Exhibits: Clothing, weapons, etc., sent for medical examination should be described in detail, sealed and returned to the police, after obtaining a receipt. This also is included in documentary evidence.
It is a written or oral statement of a person, who is dying as a result of some unlawful act, relating to the material facts of cause of his death or bearing on the circumstances (Section.32, I.E.A.). If there is time, Executive Magistrate should be called to record the declaration.
Before recording the statement, the doctor should certify that the person is conscious and his mental faculties are normal (compos mentis). If the condition of the victim is serious, and there is no time to call a Magistrate, the doctor should take the declaration in the presence of two witnesses. The statement can also be recorded by the village headman, police or any other person, but its evidential value will be less in documentary evidence.
While recording the dying declaration, oath is not administered, because of the belief that the dying person tells the truth. The statement should be recorded in the man’s own words, without any alteration of terms or phrases. Leading questions should not be put. The declarant should be permitted to give his statement without any undue influence, outside prompting or assistance.
If a point is not clear, question may be asked to make it clear, but the actual question and the answer received should be recorded. It should then be read over to the declarant, and his signature or thumb impression is taken. The statement made must be of fact and not opinion as opinions don’t play any role in documentary evidence.
If the declaration is made in the form of an opinion or conclusion, questions should be asked by the recorder to bring out the facts that are the basis for the conclusion. While recording the statement, if the declarant becomes unconscious, the person recording it must record as much information as he has obtained and sign it. If the dying person is unable to speak, but is able to make signs in answer to questions put to him, this can be recorded and it is considered as a “verbal statement” of documentary evidence.
The doctor and the witness should also sign the declaration. If the statement is written by the declarant himself, it should be signed by him, the doctor and the witnesses. The declaration is admissible not only against an accused who killed the declarant, but also against all other persons involved in the same incident which resulted in his death.
In India, if the declarant is in a sound state of mind at the time of making the declaration, it is admissible in Court as evidence, even if the declarant was not under expectation of death at that time. The declaration is sent to the Magistrate in a sealed cover as documentary evidence.
It is produced at the trial and accepted as evidence in case of death of the victim in all criminal and civil cases, where the cause of death is under inquiry. The person recording the declaration will have to give evidence in the Court to prove it. If the declarant survives, the declaration is not admitted but has corroborative value, and the person is called to give oral evidence. The statement is important to identify the offender or to clear innocent persons.
It is a statement of a person on oath, recorded by the Magistrate in the presence of the accused or his lawyer, who is allowed to cross-examine the witness. This procedure is not followed in India, hence is not a part of documentary evidence.