A Critical Analysis of Section 45
Expert opinion plays a vital role when a case involves technicalities related to a field other than law such as medico legal cases, I.T. relates cases, etc. this article serves two fold purpose firstly, it talks about the law related to expert opinion enshrined under section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1870 and secondly, the lacunas present in this concept.
Table of content:
- Evidentiary Value of expert opinion
- Analysis of Section 45
- Various rules for expert opinion
- Case Laws:
- Darbara Singh vs State of Punjab [(2012) 10 SCC 476]
- Sri Chand Batra vs State of U.P. [(1974) 4 SCC 247]
- State of H.P. vs Jai Lal [(1999) 2 SCC 428]
In a layman’s language, expert opinion means an opinion given by a person who is a specialist in the field he or she belongs to. Expert opinion lays a very crucial role in determination f a matter where a technicality is involved and the court has to take an opinion of a specialist to finally adjudicate upon a matter. For instance, if a medico-legal; case comes before a court in which the court has to determine and adjudicate the case by taking the medical condition of the accused into consideration in such a case court will summon an expert doctor or professionalism to give his/ her opinion regarding the case so that court will go through the case from every dimension before giving its final decision. To admit an expert opinion in a case, the court need to keep two things in mind:-
- Firstly, the technicalities involved in a particular case is of such a nature that it needs to be verified by the expert;
- Secondly, the person who is going to give his/her opinion regarding such technicalities must be an expert, i.e., he/ she must be a specialist in such a field.
Section 45 of the Indian evidence Act, 1870
Expert opinion is to consider as a piece of evidence under section 45 of the Indian evidence act, 1870. The concerned section stated that if an opinion given by an expert in the court is admitted by the court then such an opinion will be treated as a fact in the case. Opinion and fact are two distinguished terms. Opinion means an inference or conclusion drawn by a person by considering some facts or made on a basis of assumptions whereas a fact is a well-established point that has its contribution to the cause of action.
Despite this, many a time a fact which is otherwise irrelevant becomes relevant if it is supported by the opinion given by an expert.
The term ‘expert’ used in section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1870 has given a wider meaning. As section 45 states that an expert is a person who has special skills concerning:
- Foreign law;
- Science or art; and
- Handwriting or fingerprint impressions
But this section doesn’t point out the qualification that must be possessed by such an expert person. In Sri Chand Batra vs State of U.P. [(1974) 4 SCC 247], the issue was raised whether an excise inspector who can do a smelling test to check illicit liquor can be held as an expert. The court held that the excise inspector can be held as an expert because he has 21 years of experience of testing an illicit liquor by conducting a smelling test. With the help of this case, it can be concluded that an expert is a person who either has some professional experience in such a field or the one who possessed such a piece of knowledge by doing a special study in such an area or a field.
The testimony given by an expert is merely a shred of corroborative evidence which means that the evidence given by the expert is merely in a support of the direct or any other evidence given by the [arties or the witnesses in a case. The court is not at all bound to admit the opinion given by an expert in a case. In the a horticulture expert were summoned by the court but his opinion is rejected by the court on the ground that neither his evidence is supported by reason nor did he provide any data or material in the support of his opinion.
Evidentiary Value of expert opinion
An expert opinion depends upon the following:
- It must depend upon a fact on which it is based. For example, if a State of H.P. vs Jai Lal [(1999) 2 SCC 428]fingerprint impression expert was called in a court to testify whether the fingerprints found on the gun is of the accused or not then the fingerprint impression report is sufficient to answer all such questions.,
- The opinion given by the expert will be proved by some material or data is held by the court in the case of State of H.P. vs Jai Lal.
The testimony of the expert is different from the one which is given by a witness in a case. The testimony of the expert is based on some pre-establish facts, on a book, or an author, etc. In other words, it is referring to whereas a testimony was given by a witness in a case is based on what he/ she perceives or sees and therefore, their testimony can become a sole ground for the conviction. And if there is a difference between the two then the latter will prevail over the former.
In Darbara Singh vs State of Punjab [(2012) 10 SCC 476], the supreme court held that if there is a difference or a conflict between the ocular evidence and the expert opinion then the primacy will be given to the ocular evidence but is in a case both the evidence in a contradiction of each other than ocular evidence if found completely irrelevant can be disregarded. For instance, if in a case the witness testified that the deceased was stabbed by the accused and the post mortem report revealed that there are no such injuries of stabbing found on the deceased’ body then in such a case the witness’s testimony will be disregarded and the relevancy of the Post Mortem Report will be upheld.
Analysis of Section 45
The relevancy of the expert opinion is kept on the second position subject to certain exceptions. It means when an expert opinion contradicts the testimony of an eye witness or a piece of documentary evidence than in such case until and unless proved wrong or baseless the testimony of eye witness or documentary evidence will prevail. Also, an expert opinion helps the judge in a [particular case to form an independent opinion regarding the technicalities of such a case, it is upon the discretion of the court to admit such an opinion or not while adjudicating upon the matter as we see in the case of State of H.P. vs Jai Lal. Therefore, the concept of expert evidence is weak.
Also, to give a testimony as an expert in the court the person needs to prove that he/ she is an expert in that field. In other words, we can say that the expert person needs to prove that either he/ she possesses professional experience in such a field or acquired some professional education in such a field. Also, the expert opinion is not authoritative though it is persuasive. Either of the parties can object to the expert opinion or on its relevancy. Therefore, the admissibility of section 5 can be set aside by the testimony given by the parties or other witnesses provided under various other sections of the Indian Evidence Act, 1870. Therefore it can be overridden by the other section of the Evidence act.
Various rules for expert opinion
- The rule regarding the education qualification of an expert. It means that before taking the opinion given by the expert into consideration court must be examined that the said person is an expert in such a field or not.
- The second rule states that the expert opinion must be corroborated with some material or data or any other report so that it cannot be proved irrelevant in the court of law so easily.
- The expert must give his/ her opinion in a very cautious way so that if the court can rely on the given opinion then it will not cause prejudice to any person.
Therefore, the exert opinion must be taken by the court in a very cautious way and the court doesn’t rely solely on the expert opinion to adjudicate upon a matter. In other words, we can say that an accused cannot be convicted solely based on the testimony given by an expert in the form of expert opinion.
Expert opinion plays a very vital role in a criminal proceeding. If it is used in a correct way it can be proved as a sword to determine a case. But the section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act is a weak section as the act doesn’t give more reliance on the testimony of the expert. The legislature must amend section 45 and make it more comprehensive. Also, it must be specified in the section itself that what kind of qualification or experience an expert should possess to appear in the court as an expert.