Oral Evidence in forensic science

Oral Evidence in forensic science – It includes all statements which the Court permits, or which are required to be made before it by the witness, in relation to matters of fact under inquiry. “Fact” means:

(1) any thing, state of things, or relation of things, capable of being perceived by the senses,

(2) any mental condition of which any person is conscious (Section.3, TEA.).

In all cases, oral evidence must be direct(Section.60,I.E.A). It must be evidence of a person who saw, heard, or perceived it by that sense or in that manner. If it refers to an opinion or to the grounds on which the opinion is held, it must be the evidence of the person who holds that opinion on those grounds.

If oral evidence refers to any material thing, the Court may require the production of such a thing for its inspection, e.g. a bloodstained weapon or article of clothing, a portion of eliminated poison, etc. (Section.60, I.E.A.). All facts, except the contents of documents, may be proved by oral evidence (Section.59, I.E.A.).

A deaf and mute witness may testify by signs, by writing or through an interpreter (Section.119, I.E.A.). Oral evidence is more important than documentary evidence, as it permits cross-examination. Documentary evidence is accepted by the Court only on oral testimony by the person concerned.

Oral Evidence

Exceptions to Oral Evidence

(1) Dying declaration (Section. 32 & 157, I.E.A.). Statements, verbal or written, of relevant facts made by a person who is dead, who cannot be found, who has become incapable of giving evidence, or whose attendance cannot be procured without unreasonable delay and expenditure, is admissible as evidence (Section. 32, I.E.A.).

(2) Expert opinion expressed in a treatise may be proved in Court by producing such book if the author is dead or cannot be found or cannot be called as a witness without unreasonable delay or expense (Section. 60, I.E.A.).

(3) Oral Evidence of a doctor recorded in a lower Court is accepted in a higher Court, provided it is recorded and attested by Magistrate in the presence of the accused. But he is liable to be summoned, if the evidence is deficient or needs further explanation (Section. 291, Cr.P.C.).

(4) Oral Evidence given by a witness in a previous judicial proceeding is admissible in subsequent judicial proceeding, when the witness is dead or cannot be found, or is incapable of giving evidence, or cannot be called without undue delay or unreasonable expense (Section. 33, I.E.A. & Section.291 Cr.P.C.).

(5) Oral Evidence of Mint officers or an officer of the India Security Press (Section. 292, Cr.P.C.).

(6) Reports of certain Government scientific experts becomes part of Oral evidence: (a) Chemical Examiner or Assistant Chemical Examiner. (b) Chief Inspector of Explosives. (c) Director Fingerprint Bureau. (d) Director, Central Forensic Science Laboratories or State Forensic Science Laboratories. (e) Director, Haffkine Institute, Mumbai. (f) Serologist to the Government (5. 293(1), Cr. P.C.). The Court has the power to summon and examine any such expert. The prosecution and defence has also a right to demand the Court to summon and examine any such expert (Section.293 (2) Cr.P.C.).

(7) Public records: A record kept in a public office, e.g., birth and death, certificates of marriage, etc., is admissible in evidence without oral testimony (Section. 35, 74, 76 and 78, I.E.A.).

(8) Hospital records: Routine entries, such as dates of admission and discharge, pulse, temperature, treatment given, etc., are admissible without oral evidence. But the cause of the disease or diagnosis are not accepted without oral testimony.

Chain of Custody of Evidence: It is a method to verify the actual possession of an object from the time it was first identified until it is offered as evidence in the Court. Each specimen when obtained, should be labelled with the victim’s name, the time and date, the nature of the specimen, identification number, and signed by the doctor.

This information must be documented each time the material is handled by another person, and that person must give receipt for the material and be included in the chain of custody. The evidence must not be damaged, contaminated, or altered in any significant way. The shorter the chain the better.