The availability and acceptability of evidence or proof is one of the most important aspects of a judicial action. In this context, evidence is defined as a “material item or assertion of fact” that is acceptable in a Court of Law in order to prove or verify the validity of any specific stated fact that is under investigation or examination before the same. As a result, Evidence Law is a component of the legal environment that demands the directions and suitable applications regulating the proving of facts in a litigation process.

Since its inception (when little to no distinction was made between civil and criminal matters or between fact and law, with the burden of proof falling on the accused to prove otherwise), this law has massively evolved over time in legal systems around the world, focusing primarily on admissibility and adequacy of said evidence. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (hereafter referred to as ‘the IEA’) is an Indian act that governs the administration of evidence in Indian cases and legal proceedings.


The IEA, which consists of three sections and eleven chapters, mentions various distinct sorts of evidence, including oral, documentary, primary, secondary, judicial, non-judicial, direct, indirect (or circumstantial), and hearsay evidence.

Oral Evidence is alluded to in S. 60 of the IEA, where these evidences are directly seen/heard by the witness in their testimony and not through a medium. When main evidence is unavailable, secondary evidence is employed.


Hearsay evidence is a legal term that involves two words: “hear” and “say.” It refers to testimony or information provided by a witness based on what they have heard from others in an out-of-court conversation, essentially second-hand information. Hearsay evidence is generally considered inferior to direct testimony by witnesses who have personally witnessed an event.

Lord Reid once noted that it is challenging to provide an entirely accurate general statement about the law of hearsay, highlighting the ambiguity surrounding this rule. In a broad sense, hearsay evidence involves statements made by individuals who did not witness the original event or its occurrences but rather heard about them from a third party.


Hearsay evidence is typically not admissible as proof of a fact that has been stated by a third person. This is because hearsay evidence can be unreliable due to various reasons:-

Lack of Responsibility: The person providing hearsay evidence may not have a personal stake in the matter or any sense of responsibility for the accuracy of the information.

Potential for Inaccuracy: Each time information is repeated, there is a risk of the truth being diluted or distorted.

Potential for Fraud: Hearsay evidence can be exploited for fraudulent purposes, as it allows individuals to claim information from another person without accountability.

Despite the general rule against admissibility, there are exceptions to the exclusion of hearsay evidence in certain circumstances.

Hearsay in the Indian Legal Context:

Under the Indian Evidence Act, the concept of hearsay is relevant. In the case of Kalyan Kumar Gogoi v. Ashutosh Agnihotri & Anr.(2011) 2 SCC 532, the Supreme Court of India explained hearsay as follows:”The term hearsay is used to refer not only to what is spoken but also to what is done or written. In its legal sense, hearsay refers to a kind of evidence that does not rely solely on the credibility of the witness providing it but also partly on the truthfulness and competence of some other person.”

However, the Privy Council has declared, and the Patna High Court has underlined in the case of Rabindar Nath Thakur v. Union of India & Ors. (1998) 3 PLJR 495, that “evidence of a statement made to a witness by a person who is not himself called as witness may or may not be hearsay.” It is hearsay and inadmissible when the purpose of the evidence is to prove the veracity of the statement.”


The hearsay rule governs the formation of evidentiary inferences. In the case of State of Haryana v. Rattan Singh, (1977) 2 SCC 491. Apex court said that “there is no allergy to hearsay evidence in such an inquiry provided it has reasonable nexus and credibility.” Even while the law of hearsay is basic enough, when it comes to legal proceedings, it is at best convoluted.

And, while it is neither totally admissible nor inadmissible in most places, it does have distinct requirements in legal systems across the world. It is critical that while determining on these issues, the courts take into account all of the circumstances and facts unique to them.

Anubhav Siddharth- Legal Associate

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