Section 91: Requirement for Written Documentation-
Section 91 of the Indian Evidence Act sheds light on the crucial role of written documentation in legal matters, particularly concerning contracts, property grants, and the legal necessity for written documents. It firmly establishes that when these matters are documented in writing, the written document itself becomes the primary and most reliable form of evidence. Essentially, Section 91 underscores that the document itself must be presented to prove its contents, thereby reinforcing the fundamental principle of best evidence.
Applicability of Section 91
For Section 91 to come into play, the document in question must either be a contract, grant, or a disposition of property, even if it’s not legally mandated to be in writing. This section extends its reach to both voluntary and compulsory documentary transactions. Whether these agreements are encapsulated within a single document or scattered across multiple papers (as elucidated in Explanation 1 to Section 91), all relevant documents must be presented as evidence to validate the contract’s legitimacy.
Moreover, when multiple original copies exist, Section 91 deems it adequate to prove just one of them, as stipulated in Explanation 2 to Section 91. For example, if a bill of exchange comes in a set of three, it suffices to establish the authenticity of a single copy as evidence.
Exclusion of Oral Evidence
Crucially, Section 91 sets forth a cardinal principle i.e. oral evidence is inadmissible for proving the essential “terms” of a contract, grant, or a similar transaction. These essential terms encompass critical elements such as consideration or conditions precedent and cannot be substantiated verbally. However, it’s worth noting that oral evidence can still be employed to establish facts beyond the scope of these essential terms, as clarified in Explanation 3 to Section 91.
Section 92: Exclusion of Oral Agreement Evidence
Section 92 of the Indian Evidence Act complements Section 91 by specifying that any alterations, modifications, or additions to documents governed by Section 91 must also be substantiated with documentary evidence. This reinforces the overarching idea that written records hold paramount significance in legal proceedings.
When Oral Evidence Is Permissible
Exceptions to the general rule of barring oral evidence from contradicting or altering the terms of a document are delineated in the six provisions within the Section 92 provisos. These exceptions encompass various scenarios, including:
- Proviso 1 : Allowing oral evidence if it invalidates the document..
- Proviso 2: Considering separate oral agreements in conjunction with the written document.
- Proviso 3: Allowing oral agreements as conditions precedent to the written document.
- Proviso 4 : Admitting oral subsequent agreements for actions like rescission or renewal of a contract.
- Proviso 5: Permitting the use of oral evidence to prove usage or custom annexed to the contract.
- Proviso 6: Incorporating extrinsic evidence of surrounding circumstances.
Conclusion: Prioritizing Written Records in Legal Matters
In legal proceedings, when documentary evidence clashes with oral testimony, the written record typically prevails due to its clarity, reliability, and adherence to the principles enshrined in Section 91 and Section 92 of the Indian Evidence Act. These sections underscore the paramount importance of written documentation while providing well-defined exceptions for the admissibility of oral evidence in specific situations.