The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, is a law that was passed by the British Parliament during the colonial rule of India. It contains a set of rules and principles that determine what kind of facts can be presented as evidence in the Indian courts of law, and how they can be proved or disproved.
Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 defines the terms “fact”, “relevant”, “facts in issue”, “evidence”, “proved”, “disproved” and “not proved”.
Before understanding the fact in Issue & relevant fact we should know what is evidence?
(1) all statements which the Court permits or requires to be made before it by witnesses, in relation to matters of fact under inquiry; such statements are called oral evidence;
(2) all documents, including electronic records, produced for the inspection of the Court; such documents are called documentary evidence.
Other words and expressions defined in this section are – “Court”, “Document”, “Proved”, “Disproved” and “not proved”.
So, from above stated definition we can understand that evidence is the information or material that is presented in a court of law to prove or disprove the disputed facts.
Evidence can be of two types: oral evidence and documentary evidence.
Oral evidence is the testimony of witnesses who are allowed or required to speak before the court about the matters of fact under inquiry.
Documentary evidence is the production of documents, including electronic records, for the inspection of the court. These documents can be anything that is written, printed, recorded, or stored in any form or medium.
What is Facts –
“fact” means and includes,
(1) anything, state of things, or relation of things, capable of being perceived by the senses;
(2) any mental condition of which any person is conscious.
In simple words, Facts are the basis of any legal case. They are the raw material from which the arguments, evidence and judgments are derived. However, not all facts are equally important or relevant for the legal issue at hand. Some facts may be crucial for determining the rights and liabilities of the parties, while others may be irrelevant or immaterial. Therefore, it is essential to distinguish between facts in issue and relevant facts in any legal analysis.
What are Facts in Issue?
Facts in issue simply means “the disputed facts“ are those facts that directly relate to the legal question or dispute that needs to be resolved by the court. They are the facts that are in controversy or dispute between the parties, and that affect the outcome of the case.
In a case of murder, the fact that A killed B is a fact in issue, as it is the main point of contention between the prosecution and the defence.
Similarly, in a case of breach of contract, the fact that A failed to deliver the goods as per the agreement is a fact in issue, as it determines whether A is liable for damages or not.
Facts in issue are also known as material facts or operative facts, as they have a direct bearing on the legal rights and obligations of the parties. They are the facts that need to be proved or disproved by the parties through evidence, either oral or documentary. The burden of proof lies on the party who asserts a fact in issue, and the standard of proof depends on the nature of the case, whether civil or criminal.
What are Relevant Facts?
Relevant facts are those facts that have a logical connection or relation with the facts in issue, and that help to prove or disprove them. They are the facts that support or weaken the case of either party, and that influence the decision of the court.
In a case of murder, the fact that A had a motive to kill B is a relevant fact, as it helps to establish A’s guilt.
Or In a case of breach of contract, the fact that A was prevented by an unforeseen event from delivering the goods is a relevant fact, as it helps to excuse A’s failure.
Relevant facts are also known as evidentiary facts or circumstantial facts, as they provide evidence or circumstances for the facts in issue. They are the facts that need to be admitted or excluded by the court based on their relevance, probative value and admissibility. The rules of relevance and admissibility vary depending on the type and source of evidence, and the applicable law.
The difference between facts in issue and relevant facts
|Facts in Issue||Relevant Facts|
|Facts in issue are the main facts that are in dispute or controversy between the parties, and that determine the outcome of the case. They are also called “principal facts” or “factum probandum”.||Relevant facts are the facts that have a logical connection or relation with the facts in issue, and that help to prove or disprove them. They are also called “evidentiary facts” or “factum probandi”.|
|Facts in issue are significant and material for the legal question or issue at hand.||Relevant facts are non-significant and immaterial in themselves, but they become important when they support or weaken the case of either party.|
|Facts in issue are the basis of the law of evidence, as they define what kind of evidence can be given in a court of law.||Relevant facts are part of the law of evidence, as they specify the conditions and circumstances under which certain facts are deemed to be relevant or irrelevant.|
|Facts in issue are affirmed by one party but denied by the other party, and they need to be proved or disproved by evidence.||Relevant facts are the foundation of the inferences or conclusions drawn from the evidence, and they need to be logically connected or related to the facts in issue.|
Principle of Relevancy
Now the quest arise that can all the relevant fact can become evidence in the case?
And the answer is NO. Section 5 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states that evidence may be given of facts in issue and relevant facts, and of no others.
This section lays down the principle of relevancy, which means that only those facts that are logically & Legally relevant with the facts in issue are admissible as evidence. In simple words, If a fact is connected with another fact, it is said to be logically relevant but it will only be legally relevant if the law establishes that the fact is relevant. Otherwise, it is unacceptable as evidence in court.
Illustration – In a case of theft, the fact that A was seen near the crime scene is logically relevant, as it shows a possible connection between A and the theft. However, it may not be legally relevant or admissible, unless it is corroborated by other evidence, such as fingerprints, CCTV footage, or eyewitness testimony.
Illustration – In a case of murder, the fact that A had a motive to kill B is both logically and legally relevant, as it helps to establish A’s guilt. It is admissible under Section 8 of the IEA, which states that facts that show motive, preparation, conduct, or intention of any party are relevant
So, a fact may be related to a particular case, but there is no guarantee that the fact will be accepted by the court in law. Therefore, all the evidence that must be presented in court must be both logically relevant and legally admissible.
Section 6 to Section 55 of the Indian Evidence Act specifies the condition in which facts are presumed to be relevant to another.
Illustrations – In a case of defamation, the fact that A is a famous actor is irrelevant, as it has no bearing on whether A made a false statement about B or not. It is neither logically nor legally connected with the facts in issue.
Case Law – R.M. Malkani v. State of Maharashtra, where the Supreme Court held that a tape-recorded conversation between the complainant and the accused, which revealed the demand and acceptance of bribe, was a relevant fact under Section 8 of the Act, as it showed the motive or preparation for the crime.
What if there is no direct evidence of the facts in issue
In case if there is no direct evidence of the facts in issue, they can be proved by indirect evidence of relevant facts. Direct evidence is the evidence that directly proves or disproves the existence or non-existence of a fact in issue, such as an eyewitness testimony or a confession. Indirect evidence is the evidence that indirectly proves or disproves a fact in issue by showing its connection or relation with other facts, such as a motive, an alibi, or a fingerprint. Section 5 of the law allows both direct and indirect evidence to be given for proving or disproving the facts in issue, as long as they are relevant. Relevant facts are sometimes also called circumstantial evidence, as they form part of the circumstances or situation surrounding the facts in issue. However, the law does not use this term to describe them.
Case Law – In State of Maharashtra v. Damu, where the Supreme Court held that the fact that the accused was seen near the scene of crime soon after the incident was a relevant fact under Section 9 of the Act, as it explained or introduced the fact in issue, i.e., the identity of the offender.
Why is it Important to Distinguish between Facts in Issue and Relevant Facts?
The distinction between facts in issue and relevant facts is important for several reasons:
- It helps to identify and focus on the core issues of the case, and avoid unnecessary or irrelevant details.
- It helps to organize and present the arguments and evidence in a logical and coherent manner.
- It helps to evaluate and weigh the strength and weakness of each party’s case.
- It helps to apply the correct law and principles to the facts of the case.
- It helps to reach a fair and just conclusion based on the facts and law.
Therefore, it is essential for any lawyer or judge to distinguish between facts in issue and relevant facts in any legal analysis. This will ensure that the case is decided on its merits, and not on extraneous or immaterial factors.
Below is example to understand the same.
Suppose there is a case of theft, where A accuses B of stealing his laptop from his office. The facts in issue are the facts that are directly relevant to the legal question of whether B is guilty of theft or not. For example, some facts in issue are:
– Did B take the laptop from A’s office?
– Did B intend to deprive A of the laptop permanently?
– Did B have a lawful claim of right to the laptop?
The relevant facts are the facts that are not directly relevant to the legal question, but can help to prove or disprove the facts in issue. For example, some relevant facts are:
– Was B seen near A’s office on the day of the theft?
– Did B have access to A’s office key or password?
– Did B have a motive or opportunity to steal the laptop?
– Did B have any previous history of theft or dishonesty?
– Did B try to sell or dispose of the laptop after taking it?
By distinguishing between facts in issue and relevant facts, the lawyer or judge can:
– Identify and focus on the core issues of the case, and avoid unnecessary or irrelevant details. For example, it may not matter what color or model the laptop was, or what A used it for, unless it is relevant to prove or disprove the facts in issue.
– Organize and present the arguments and evidence in a logical and coherent manner. For example, the lawyer or judge can structure the case by first establishing the facts in issue, and then supporting them with relevant facts and evidence.
– Evaluate and weigh the strength and weakness of each party’s case. For example, the lawyer or judge can assess how reliable and persuasive the evidence for each fact in issue is, and how it relates to the relevant facts.
– Apply the correct law and principles to the facts of the case. For example, the lawyer or judge can apply the legal definition of theft and its elements to the facts in issue, and determine whether they are satisfied or not.
– Reach a fair and just conclusion based on the facts and law. For example, the lawyer or judge can decide whether B is guilty of theft or not, based on the facts in issue and relevant facts, and the applicable law and principles.