Evidentiary Value Of Expert Opinion

Author: Sivapuram V.L. Thejaswini Student, Alliance University

Introduction :

Generally in the cases of extreme nature (or) unknown circumstances the courts generally take the opinions of an expert which is known to be an Expert opinion (or) Expert evidence.

Under the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, Section 45 deals with these kinds of expert opinions.

Expert opinion:

What are the areas in which an expert opinion will be taken ?

When there are questions relating to the fields of science, art, foreign law, identity of handwriting (or) finger impressions.

If there are any questions relating to these fields then the opinion of an expert will be taken.

Who are termed as experts ?

 Under Section 45, for a person to be called an expert some areas are specifically mentioned. So if a person has special knowledge, experience in those areas then he will be termed as an expert.

  1. His opinion is admissible on a particular question on which he is asked to give his opinion.

  2. Courts become satisfactory & come to a conclusion through their opinions.

  3. It is again the duty of the judge to check the whether it is sufficient to rely on the expert opinion.

  4. They have the duty to make sure that such experts are reliable.

What are the functions of an expert ?

The above question has been clearly explained in the case of State of Himachal Pradesh v. Jai Lal & Ors.,

  1. An expert witness is the person who has made a particular study, observations (or) possess special knowledge on that particular subject.

  2. In order to be an expert it is necessary to show that he is skilled and has adequate knowledge of that subject.

  3. Their evidences are generally of advisory nature though they may not witness the facts specifically.

  4. It is the duty of an expert to furnish all the relevant documents & follow the scientific criteria so as to make it easy for the judge to form a conclusion there by[1].

In Titli v. Alfred Robert Jones, the same point regarding the functions of an expert was discussed. Where in it was held that it is the duty of an expert to submit the court all the relevant & sufficient materials by stating all the reasons that make him to conclude on a given subject matter, although they may not form their own judgements & opinions[2].

Evidentiary value of an expert opinion :

The opinions of an expert are admissible. But they are to be relevant & corroborative with respect to the facts & circumstances of the given case. Though experts are being made admissible as witnesses, but they cannot make an opinion on their own, but they have to make an opinion by using the specialized skill or knowledge they possess because of which they have been approached for that particular opinion. Because it is the duty of the judiciary as such.

Whether the courts are bound by the opinions of experts ?

This question was answered by the Apex court in the case of Malay Kumar Ganguly v. Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, where it was held that the courts are not bound by the opinions of experts if such opinions are merely in the nature of an advise.

The courts have a discretion to draw their conclusions but cautiously. Such kind of expert opinions may be either admitted (or) denied. Thus, the evidences in many matters like handwriting, finger impressions, cause of death, foot prints etc., have become the part & parcel of our lives. They became the need of the hour. So an expert who is well versed in all such fields with special skills & knowledge are allowed to give evidences[3].

In Forest Range Officer v. P. Mohammad Ali, an expert opinion is only based on an opinion. It is not necessary that the courts has to abide by it (or) it simply means that there is no binding effect on the courts as such. The expert opinion cannot be always above the direct evidences of witnesses who are attesting[4].

In Devi Prasad & Ors. v. State, it was held that an evidence which is given by a person who has no sufficient familiarity should be discarded. The Indian Evidence Act insists that documents must be either proved by primary (or) secondary evidence[5].

In State of Maharashtra v. Damu s/o Gopinath Shinde and Ors, it was held that merely giving an evidence without producing any data (or) basis in support of his opinion would not be called an evidence. Although an opinion is given by an expert, but there has to be supportive data to establish his opinion. So though these kind of evidences may be admissible, but they are not being considered without examination of expert as a witness in court. Thus dependency on these opinions cannot be done alone[6].

In Kabul Singh v. Gurinder Singh, the expert opinion was taken regarding the issue of signatures which were put on a document. In this case, the expert has given his opinion that certain digits were changed for which his opinion was not asked for.

             Thus, it was held by the High court of Punjab & Haryana that such kind of opinions has to be ignored and even the experts also has to restrict themselves to the facts of the given case. When there arises a conflict between the opinions of experts themselves, then in such cases courts are allowed to form an opinion with respect to such signatures on a document[7].

In Murali Lal v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court held that it would cause injustice to the parties if any conviction is made on a person based on the opinions of handwriting experts (or) any experts as such merely without any corroborations substantively. An expert just testifies (or) gives an evidence but could not decide.

                An expert is only obliged to provide the necessary scientific details to the judge so that the judge can test the accuracy of his conclusion and can form an independent conclusion by applying the scientific criteria to the facts of the case[8].

Handwriting experts :

Section 47 of the Indian Evidence Act provides that an expert can give his evidence regarding the identification of handwriting between the document that is in issue and the document that is admitted/proved.

In Alamgir v. State (NCT Delhi), it was held that the opinion of handwriting expert does not amount to conviction but it can be relied upon when supported by some internal & external evidences[9].

In Fakhruddin v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Apex court held that there are three modes to prove a document;

  1. Firstly by direct evidence

  2. Secondly by expert evidence

  3. Thirdly by the court arriving to a conclusion through comparison[10]

Finger impressions :

The scope of this science of finger impressions has been widened. There are two assumptions mainly for this;

  1. The fingerprints of any person do not change from birth to death i.e., they remain the same as it is.

  2. The patterns of one finger from other finger are entirely different of the same hand (or) different hand. They are not the same in any way.

More preference is given to the opinions of thumb impression experts than that of the handwriting experts.

Conclusion :

Witnesses can be of ordinary people & that of the experts. But the expert witnesses stand on a separate footing when compared to that of ordinary witnesses. The document, opinion, reports that are given by an expert stands unquestioned. As the courts do not have special expertise and knowledge with respect to all the fields so they consider the opinions of an expert.

[1] 1999 Supp (2) SCR 318

[2] AIR 1934 All 273, 153 Ind Cas 733

[3] AIR 2010 SC 1162

[4] 1994 AIR 120, 1993 SCR (3) 497

[5] AIR 1967 All 64, 1967 CriLJ 134

[6] AIR 2000 SC 1691

[7] (1999) 121 PLR 816

[8] AIR 1980 SC 531

[9] Appeal (crl.) 202 of 2001

[10] AIR 1967 SC 1326

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