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This Article is written by Tejal Vengurlekar of Victor Dantas Law College, Kudal, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


This article presents a comprehensive comparative analysis of the treatment of hearsay evidence in both civil and criminal proceedings. Hearsay evidence, defined as statements made outside of court offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted, poses unique challenges in legal proceedings due to its potential unreliability. The article begins with an examination at the complicated rules that regulate the acceptance of hearsay evidence in civil and criminal trials, noting significant clauses and exceptions to the Indian Evidence Act. Practical challenges encountered in dealing with hearsay evidence are explored, including issues related to reliability assessment, procedural complexities, and the authentication of digital evidence. Criticisms of hearsay evidence, such as concerns regarding its potential for prejudice, lack of reliability, and impact on due process, are thoroughly examined. Furthermore, the article looks into the disputes surrounding the management of hearsay evidence, such as the probative value vs the possibility for unfair influence and distortion of truth-seeking. Through a critical analysis of these issues, the article aims to shed light on the complexities and implications associated with the use of hearsay evidence in legal proceedings.


Hearsay evidence, Civil proceedings, criminal proceedings, admissibility criteria, exceptions.


Hearsay evidence, defined as an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted, occupies a central role in both civil and criminal proceedings. Its treatment, however, varies significantly depending on the jurisdiction and the specific rules of evidence in place. The admissibility of hearsay evidence raises complex legal issues concerning fairness, reliability, and the search for truth in judicial proceedings.

In both civil and criminal contexts, the admissibility of hearsay evidence is governed by a framework of rules, exceptions, and judicial interpretations aimed at balancing the need for justice with concerns about the reliability of such evidence. While civil cases often afford more flexibility in the admission of hearsay evidence, criminal proceedings typically demand a higher threshold of reliability due to the serious consequences involved, including potential loss of liberty.


The Indian Evidence Act of 1872 [1]is a comprehensive regulation that controls the acceptance of evidence in Indian courts. Hearsay evidence is an important part of these rules.
Hearsay evidence is testimony or remarks given by a witness who does not have direct knowledge of the facts but has heard about them from others. Sections 60 to 65 delineate these exceptions, offering circumstances under which hearsay evidence may be admitted. These exceptions include admissions and confessions, dying declarations, statements made in the ordinary course of business, statements against interest, statements in ancient documents, statements of repute, statements as to custom or relationship, and facts stated in treatises or published documents. [2]

While these exceptions widen the scope of admissibility for hearsay evidence, courts often subject such evidence to rigorous scrutiny due to its inherent unreliability. Thus, while the Indian Evidence Act acknowledges the potential relevance of hearsay evidence in certain situations, it emphasizes the importance of direct and credible testimony in the pursuit of justice.


In criminal proceedings governed by the Indian Evidence Act, the admissibility of hearsay evidence is a matter of significant legal scrutiny. The Act establishes a general rule, articulated in Section 60, which mandates that oral evidence must be direct, originating from the personal knowledge and perceptions of the witness. [3]Hearsay evidence, being second-hand information relayed from a source other than the witness’s own observation, typically falls short of meeting this requirement and is thus considered inadmissible in standard circumstances.

However, exceptions exist within the Act where hearsay evidence may be deemed admissible, albeit cautiously, in criminal trials. Among these exceptions, the most notable include provisions for dying declarations, admissions by the accused, and, to a limited extent, confessions to police officers under certain conditions.

Dying declarations, as outlined in Section 32 of the Act, are considered an exception to the hearsay rule due to the inherent reliability attributed to statements made by individuals facing imminent death, who are believed to have less incentive to lie[4]. Similarly, admissions made by the accused, whether before or after the commission of the offense, are relevant and admissible under Section 18, representing an exception to the hearsay rule under the category of party admissions.[5]

Confessions made to police officers, while generally inadmissible due to concerns regarding coercion and reliability, may be considered admissible if made voluntarily and leading to the discovery of facts, as stipulated by Section 25.[6]

Ultimately, the admissibility of hearsay evidence in criminal proceedings is subject to judicial interpretation, with courts carefully evaluating the circumstances, relevance, and credibility of such evidence on a case-by-case basis. Landmark judgments provide guidance on the application of these provisions, ensuring that principles of fairness, justice, and the pursuit of truth are upheld within the Indian legal system.


In civil proceedings governed by the Indian Evidence Act, the admissibility of hearsay evidence is subject to certain principles and exceptions. As outlined in Section 60 of the Act, oral evidence must generally be direct, requiring witnesses to testify based on their own perceptions and knowledge of the facts at hand. This provision reflects the preference for firsthand accounts in legal proceedings and underscores the importance of reliability and credibility.

However, the Act provides for exceptions where hearsay evidence may be admitted in civil cases. One such exception is found in Section 18, which deals with admissions. Admissions made by a party to the suit, whether oral or documentary, are deemed relevant and admissible against that party. This exception recognizes the significance of statements made by parties themselves, which may be used as evidence against their own interests in the case.

Additionally, Section 32 of the Act provides further exceptions regarding statements in documents. This section allows for the admissibility of statements contained in documents if they are relevant to the matter in dispute. Such statements may include those made by individuals who are deceased or unavailable, statements against the pecuniary or proprietary interests of the person making them, and statements contained in maps, charts, or plans made before the relevant transaction occurred.

In interpreting and applying these provisions, courts play a crucial role in assessing the admissibility of hearsay evidence in civil cases. Through case law and judicial decisions, courts provide guidance on the application of the law, ensuring that the principles of fairness and justice are upheld. Ultimately, while hearsay evidence is generally disfavoured in civil proceedings, the Indian Evidence Act provides for certain exceptions where it may be admitted, albeit with careful consideration of its reliability and relevance to the matter at hand.


Practical challenges regarding hearsay evidence under the Indian Evidence Act can arise due to various factors, including the reliability of such evidence, procedural complexities, and judicial interpretation. Here are some practical challenges associated with hearsay evidence in the context of the Indian legal system:

  1. Reliability and Trustworthiness: Hearsay evidence is inherently less reliable compared to firsthand testimony. Since it involves statements made by individuals who are not present in court to be cross-examined, there is a higher risk of inaccuracies, misunderstandings, or even deliberate falsehoods. Assessing the credibility and reliability of hearsay evidence poses a significant challenge for judges and juries.
  2. Complexity in Application of Exceptions: While the Indian Evidence Act provides exceptions to the hearsay rule in certain circumstances, applying these exceptions can be complex. Determining whether a particular statement falls within an exception requires careful analysis of the facts and legal principles. Courts must assess factors such as the nature of the statement, its relevance to the case, and the reliability of the source.
  3. Burden of Proof: In cases involving hearsay evidence, the burden of proof may become blurred or shifted. [7]Parties may rely on hearsay statements to support their arguments, leading to disputes over the weight and admissibility of such evidence. Courts must balance the interests of fairness and justice while ensuring that the burden of proof remains on the party making the assertion.
  4. Prejudice and Unfair Influence: Hearsay evidence has the potential to unduly influence judges or juries, particularly if it is emotionally charged or sensationalized. There is a risk that hearsay statements may prejudice the outcome of a trial, especially if they are admitted without sufficient scrutiny. Courts must guard against allowing hearsay evidence to unfairly sway the decision-making process.
  5. Procedural Challenges: Procedural rules governing the admission and presentation of evidence can pose challenges in dealing with hearsay. Parties may need to navigate complex evidentiary procedures, including rules regarding authentication, relevance, and admissibility. Ensuring compliance with these rules while admitting hearsay evidence can be demanding for legal practitioners and judges alike.
  6. Technological and Documentary Evidence: With the advent of modern technology and electronic communication, hearsay evidence may increasingly manifest in the form of digital messages, emails, or social media posts. Authenticating and verifying the accuracy of such evidence presents unique challenges, particularly when dealing with complex digital data trails and electronic records.
  7. Need for Judicial Discretion and Case-by-Case Analysis: Ultimately, the admissibility of hearsay evidence often hinges on judicial discretion and a case-by-case analysis. Judges must carefully weigh the probative value of hearsay statements against the risks of prejudice, unreliability, or unfairness. This requires a nuanced understanding of evidentiary principles and a commitment to ensuring a fair and impartial trial.


Criticisms and controversies surrounding hearsay evidence are not uncommon in legal systems worldwide, including those governed by the Indian Evidence Act. Some of the criticisms and controversies regarding hearsay evidence include:

  1. Reliability Concerns: Hearsay evidence is often criticized for its potential lack of reliability. Since it is based on out-of-court statements made by individuals who are not present to be cross-examined, there is a risk of inaccuracies, misunderstandings, or even deliberate falsehoods. Critics argue that hearsay evidence may lead to unjust outcomes if not properly scrutinized.
  2. Fairness and Due Process: Critics contend that admitting hearsay evidence may compromise the fairness of legal proceedings and violate the principles of due process. Allowing hearsay statements without adequate safeguards could deny parties the opportunity to challenge the evidence against them or confront their accusers, undermining the right to a fair trial.
  3. Risk of Prejudice: Hearsay evidence has the potential to prejudice judges or juries, particularly if it is emotionally charged or sensationalized. Critics argue that hearsay statements, especially those involving inflammatory or unreliable information, may unduly influence decision-making and lead to unjust outcomes.
  4. Complexity and Confusion: The rules governing the admissibility of hearsay evidence can be complex and nuanced. Critics argue that navigating these rules, including exceptions and procedural requirements, may be challenging for legal practitioners, leading to confusion and inconsistency in their application.
  5. Inequality of Arms: In some cases, one party may have greater access to hearsay evidence than the other, creating an imbalance of power in legal proceedings. Critics argue that this inequality of arms may undermine the adversarial nature of the legal system and hinder the pursuit of justice.
  6. Erosion of Witness Testimony: Overreliance on hearsay evidence may diminish the importance of firsthand witness testimony, which is often considered more reliable and probative. Critics argue that a decline of witness testimony could undermine the truth-seeking function of the legal process and diminish public confidence in the justice system.
  7. Technological Challenges: With the proliferation of digital communication and social media, the volume and complexity of hearsay evidence have increased. Critics argue that courts may struggle to authenticate and evaluate digital evidence, leading to concerns about its reliability and admissibility.


In conclusion, the treatment of hearsay evidence within legal systems, including those governed by the Indian Evidence Act, is a topic of ongoing scrutiny and debate. While hearsay evidence can potentially provide valuable information in legal proceedings, it is also subject to criticism and controversy due to concerns about its reliability, fairness, and potential for prejudice.

Critics argue that hearsay evidence may lack the reliability of firsthand testimony, raising questions about its accuracy and trustworthiness. Moreover, the admissibility of hearsay evidence may present challenges in maintaining fairness and due process, particularly if not subject to adequate scrutiny or safeguards.

Despite these criticisms, hearsay evidence continues to play a role in legal proceedings, with courts often tasked with balancing its probative value against the risks of prejudice or injustice. As legal systems evolve and adapt to technological advancements and changing societal norms, the treatment of hearsay evidence remains a dynamic and complex issue.


  1. Ruchika Mohapatra, Hearsay Evidence under Indian Evidence Act, 1872, : Definition, Admissibility, Exceptions, , Clatalogue, https://lawctopus.com/clatalogue/clat-pg/hearsay-evidence-definition-admissibility-exceptions/, (Feb. 16 2024)
  2. WL Staff, What Is Hearsay Evidence Under the Indian Evidence Act and Its Exceptions, Writing Law, https://www.writinglaw.com/hearsay-evidence/, (Feb. 18 2024)
  3. Shivi Khanna, All you need to know about Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Ipleaders,  https://blog.ipleaders.in/all-you-need-to-know-about-section-3-of-the-indian-evidence-act-1872/, (Feb. 18 2024)

[1] India Code, https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/15351/1/iea_1872.pdf, (last visited Feb. 18 2024)

[2] Indian Kanoon, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1681167/, (last visited Feb. 18, 2024)

[3] Ruchika Mohapatra, Hearsay Evidence under Indian Evidence Act, 1872, : Definition, Admissibility, Exceptions, , Clatalogue, https://lawctopus.com/clatalogue/clat-pg/hearsay-evidence-definition-admissibility-exceptions/, (Feb. 16 2024)

[4] DYING DECLARATION- Its Applicability in Criminal Cases, CASEShttps://kjablr.kar.nic.in/assets/articles/Dying_Declaration_Its_applicability_in_Criminal_Cases.pdf.


[6] Sneha Mahawar, Statement of co-accused under Section 25 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Ipleaders, ( May 29,2023), https://blog.ipleaders.in/statement-of-co-accused-under-section-25-of-indian-evidence-act-1872/

[7] Ruchika Mohapatra, Hearsay Evidence under Indian Evidence Act, 1872, : Definition, Admissibility, Exceptions, , Clatalogue, (Oct. 8, 2023) https://lawctopus.com/clatalogue/clat-pg/hearsay-evidence-definition-admissibility-exceptions/.

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