Section 74 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

(1) Documents forming the acts, or records of the acts—

(i) Of the sovereign authority,

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(ii) Of official bodies and tribunals, and

(iii) Of public officers, legislative, judicial and executive, of any part of India or of the Commonwealth, or of a foreign country;

(2) Public records kept in any State of private documents.

Comments:

The Evidence Act has divided documents into two categories, namely—

(1) Public documents, and (2) Private documents. What is a public document has been defined in Section 74, Section 75 provides that which are not public documents are private documents. Sections 76 to 78 deal with method of proof of public documents.

Public documents:

Section 74 provides that following documents are public documents:

(i) The Acts or records of the Acts of a sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, public officer, legislative, judicial and executive;

(ii) Private documents which are registered in public offices are public documents. For example, Memorandum of Association of a company. A Private Waqf deed which is recorded in the office of the sub-registrar etc.

“A public document is one, prepared by a public servant in discharge of his public official duties”, All public documents are required to be kept as records in some special custody. A public document is not required to be proved by primary evidence. A certified copy i.e., secondary evidence, is sufficient. “Public documents form an exception to the hearsay rule and their admissibility rests on the ground that the facts contained are of public interest and the statements are made by authorised and competent agents of the public in the course of their official duty”.

Few examples of public documents:—

(i) A judgment, order or a decree of a court.

(ii) Order sheet.

(iii) Entries made by police officer.

(iv) Insurance Policy.

(v) Letters and communications between public officers.

(vi) Public Notification.

(vii) Income Tax Assessment Order.

(viii) Pahanies and FIR.

Right to inspection:

There is no separate law in India except Section 76, granting right to inspection of public document. Section 76 provides for granting of certified copies of the public document, provided the person who wants such certified copies, must have right to inspection of the public documents. Right to such certified copies of public document is not absolute but dependent upon right to inspect the document. An objection as to the admissibility and mode of proof of document must be taken at the trial before it is received in evidence and marked as an exhibit.

Clause 1:

Clause 1 deals with the documents forming the acts of records of the acts of the sovereign authority, of official bodies and tribunals, and of public officers, legislative, judicial and executive or of a foreign country. Example, the Entries made by a police officer in the site inspection map and site memo have been held to be public document. An income tax assessment order is a public document. A judgment of a court is a public document. The records of the acts of Labour Tribunals are public documents.

Clause 2:

Clause 2 refers to public records kept of private document. Public official is required to keep any private document. Public record of sale deed which is a private document being kept in the office of the Sub-Registrar it falls within the category of public document. School Leaving Certificate falls within the ambit of Section 74 and is admissible per se without formal proof.