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Expert Opinions in Court: Demystifying Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act - A simplified version

In this Article I will discuss Main Concepts of this particular Section for example:
  • What is Expert's Opinion?
  • What is Evidentiary value of This opinion?
  • Who is Expert?

When we need Expert's Opinion?
So firstly, I will discuss what the Expert's Opinion is!

Expert Opinion:

Many times, it happens that court is not able to know about the fact relating to particular field in such type of circumstances the court takes the help of the Person who has a specific knowledge about that field.

If we talk about the law, then in Indian Evidence Act under Section 45 talks about the law relating to Opinion of Experts or commonly known as Expert Opinion/Expert Evidence.

This statutory provision is used, when the Court has to form opinion pertaining to:
  • foreign law
  • science
  • identity of handwriting
  • finger impressions & Art
As a general rule, we all know that the opinion of a judge only plays a part and is thus relevant in the decision of a case, and thus, the opinion of any person other than the judge about any issue or relevant fact is irrelevant in deciding the case.

Let's understand by an example:
A Train going from Delhi to Mumbai, met with an accident between the way, so now question before the court are as like:
  • Whether Accident was caused with the Negligence of the Driver.
  • Whether there was any technical issue
  • Whether was caused due to the Negligence of station
So, in such type of cases, court has not enough knowledge to come upon a conclusion, as there is confusion in the situation. In this matter court will ask the expert who has a special knowledge regarding such Field to know about his opinion about the Accident.

Let's take on more example:
A boy named Rohit swallowed the poison, when was prosecuted before the court, the court wanted to know that:
  • How much quantity of poison he has swallowed?
  • What type of symptoms may be occurred on swallowing?
  • What is the time limit for ending the life after swallowing that poison?

Who Is An Expert:

So, when we talk about the definition of an expert, we generally can say that any person who has special knowledge with respect to any particular field than others but if we go by the sense of law it says that-

Section 4556 defines an expert as a person who is especially skilled in a given field.

An expert is a person who has special knowledge and skill in a particular calling to which the inquiry relates. An expert witness is one who has devoted time and study to a special branch of learning, thus is especially skilled on those points on which he is asked to state his opinion. His evidence on such points is admissible to enable court to come to a satisfactory conclusion.

But in some cases:
The court taken the opinion of persons even if they have not any specialized study in that particular field, but that person is aware about that field.

Let's understand with Case law: Abdul Rahman Vs State of Mysore Case:
In this case, the supreme court had a question whether that particular gold in the case was pure gold or not, so court took the opinion of third person who was a goldsmith to know about reality & his opinion was admissible in the court of law. Even he has not a qualified experience in that case.

In another case, the court also took the opinion of a Traffic police to know about accident would be caused due to which reason, here court considered this opinion admissible although he had not any Specific skills.

So, in this section it is written that person should be skilled in any particular field he must have sufficient knowledge about the subject.

Now let's discuss about the different types of Branches on which opinions are taken firstly let's start with-

What Is Foreign Law:

When we talk about the foreign law, this is the law which is not applicable or existing in India but it's applicable in any other country other than India.

For example, let's understand � Bank of England Act,1962, Meeting of Parliament Act,1964, Royal Mines Act,1963 etc. These are the foreign laws, so if any question arises with respect to such laws. court will take the opinion of skilled person who has knowledge in this field.

There was a case relating to Confusion relating to foreign law-Aziz Bano vs Mohammad Ibrahim Husain on 23 April, 1925-

In this case supreme court said that the foreign law in this section means, any law which is not applicable in India, for example Muslim laws were originated from Saudi -Arab but now Muslim law is applicable in India also, only because big origin in another country any law doesn't become foreign law.

What Is Science & Art:

These two terms are very wider, wherever any technical issue or complicated matter related to Science or any type of art, about which a normal human being is unaware, in such cases the expert's opinions are taken. Like:
  1. Age of a person
  2. Cause of death of person
Regarding dangerous nature of any substance Time when injury occurred etc.

Let's understand with a Case law- R Vs Smith (1959):
In this case it was held that the accused was charged with murder of his wife, but he tried to take defense that he killed by stabbing his wife by virtue of sleeping condition, so here court took the help of an Expert, whether is it possible to kill someone when he is sleeping so it was considered admissible in the court of law.

Identification Of Fingerprinting And Handwriting:

Simply we can analyze by names of terms that-A man's signature is called an unforgettable signature. This head was added to expert evidence's scope in 1899. The study of fingerprints is generally admitted to constitute a science. Its two basic hypotheses are that:

Firstly, fingerprints of a person remain the same from birth to death

Secondly, there has never yet been found any case where pattern made by one finger exactly resembled the pattern made by any other finger of the same or any other hand. The opinion of thumb impression expert is entitled to greater weight-age than that of a handwriting expert.

Under Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act an expert can disclose the identity of handwriting between the questioned document and the document admitted or proved. A disputed handwriting may be proved-

either by calling an expert (S.45) or by examining a person acquainted with the handwriting of the person by whom the questioned document is alleged to have been written (S. 47) or a comparison of the two u/s 73.

Evidentiary Value Of Expert Opinion:

After discussing all these elements � let's have a light upon the evidentiary value of Expert's opinion under law-

The opinion of an expert must be of corroborative nature to the facts and circumstances of the given case. If the opinion contradicts an unimpeachable eyewitness or documentary evidence, then it will not have an upper hand over direct evidences.

The Section does not provide for any specific attainment of knowledge or study or experience for being called an expert. Experts are admissible as witness but, they are not to make conclusion as it is a judicial function.

In Forest Range Officer v. P.Mohammad Ali (1993)- it was held that expert opinion is only the opinion evidence. It does not help the Court in interpretation. The mere opinion of an expert cannot override the positive evidence of the attesting witness. Expert opinion is not necessarily binding on the Court.

Difference Between Expert & Non- Expert:

When we see about the differences between the both, like a non-expert witness the testimony of an expert witness need not be confined to actual facts and he may give evidence on facts as stated by other witnesses,

e.g. a doctor who might not have seen the patient personally can opine as to the cause of his death on facts deposed. He may cite textbooks in support of his opinion or to refresh his memory he may speak about experiments made by him in the absence of parties.

Main (Conditions Expert's Opinion):

When Court is about to take the opinion of Expert then there are some conditions which should be fulfilled before taking the opinion, which are like so:
  • Subject is of such nature, in which opinion is required
  • The witness in question is really an expert. It must be proved that the witness is competent enough to give the evidence and that the fact to be proved is a point of science or art of which the witness is an expert in, before the opinion of a person can be admitted in evidence
If a witness is not proved to be an expert, his opinion will become irrelevant. It must be proved that the witness is an expert. He must be examined as a witness in the Court and be subject to cross-examination. Functions Of Expert's With Reference To Case Law Jai Lal & Others Vs State Of Himachal Pradesh (1999):
  • An expert witness, is one who has made the subject upon which he speaks a matter of particular study, practice; or observations; and the must have a special knowledge of the subject.
  • And secondly the expert has to show that expert it has to be shown that he has made a special study of the subject or acquired a special experience therein or in other words that he is skilled and has adequate knowledge of the subject.
  • Thirdly, it is the main duty of the expert to show the judge scientific criteria for testing the accuracy of the conclusions.
At the end it was said that: The scientific opinion evidence, convincing and tested becomes a factor an important factor for consideration along with the other evidence of the case.
The credibility of such a witness depends on the reasons stated in support of his conclusions and the data and materials furnished which form the basis of his conclusions.

Lastly, I would like to discuss about one important Judgment recently came Titly Vs Jones in this case it was stated that the real function of the expert is to put before the court all the materials, together with reasons which induce him to come to the conclusion,

so that the court, although not an expert, may form its own judgment by its own observation of those materials

Expert Opinion & Ordinary Witness Opinion:

At the end let's have a look on brief differences between the Opinion of an expert and an ordinary witness 13:
Sr.No. Evidence Of Expert Evidence Of Ordinary Witness
1 Expert every time gives Opinion regarding handwriting, finger impressions, nature of
injury etc.
Ordinary witness says about only the incident in
2 This type Evidence is advisory in nature Ordinary witness states facts only, his Opinion is not admissible.
3 Court can pass the order on such type of Opinion given by expert Court can pass order of conviction on basis of eye-witness &
4 Expert gives Opinion on the basis of his skills, knowledge or experience. But here witness gives actual facts connected with incident.

Analysis Of Full Topic:
The main Analysis of the whatever we have discussed above may be discussed in brief

Unlike an ordinary witness, expert witnesses have a separate role as a witness in a court. It is interesting to note that an expert's report cannot be questioned in the court. The report is questioned when the ability and knowledge of the expert to make that report is in question.

The experts are judged with a different eye by the court since they are just giving an opinion and are not aware of the facts of the case. But still, an expert's opinion matters as the court has no knowledge of that particular field of expertise and they will not be able to impart justice without seeing the other side of the coin.

Conclusion & Comments:
From the above analysis it may be said that evidence of an expert is not a substantive piece of evidence. The courts do not consider it conclusive. Without independent and reliable

corroboration it may have no value in the eye of law. Once the court accepts an opinion of an expert, it ceases to be the opinion of the expert and becomes the opinion of the court.

Judiciary has played a good role regarding the Admissibility of such type of Evidences, it has

reduced the chances of giving false Judgements by believing on such Opinion in a least manner.

It is always necessary for the expert to become independent and impartial whenever he is giving his Opinion in the court of law.

  • Bare Act of Indian Evidence Act, 1872
  • The Law of Evidence by Batuk Lal by Central Law Agency Legal Services India
  • Indian Kanoon

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