Expert opinion and its relevancy

RELEVANCY OF AN EXPERT OPINION

Author: Santoshi karasi

INTRODUCTION

Commonly, the term “Expert opinion” refers to a belief or judgment about something given by an expert on the subject. The opinion of a skilled and experienced person may be taken when the issue is related to some technicalities. Generally, the expert does not witness to the fact, despite that, the opinion of an expert becomes relevant due to the circumstances. The law relating to Expert opinion has enumerated from the Indian Evidence Act and these provisions are covered under Section 45 to 51 in chapter II of the act. Further, there is a general rule that evidence is to be given of the facts only which are within the knowledge of the witness.  However, the provisions stated in Section 45 to 51 are the exception to the above-stated rule. Now the question may arise who is to be considered as an expert and how the expert opinion is relevant and admissible as evidence in any case in the court of law?

WHO IS EXPERT?

Lawson defines an expert as a person who has special knowledge and skill in the particular calling to which inquiry relates[1]. Further, Expert is also defined under Section 45 of Indian evidence act as the person who is skilled and has special knowledge and experience in the following field:

  • Foreign law
  • Science & Art
  • Identity of Handwriting
  • Identity of finger impression
  • Electronic evidence

Such special knowledge must be acquired by practice and observation. In the case titled as Ramesh Chandra Agarwal v/s Regency Hospital Ltd[2].  Court has broadly dealt and interpreted the scenario and held that an expert is a person who devotes his time and study to a special branch of learning. However, he might have acquired such knowledge by practice, observation, or careful study. An expert is one who is skilled in any particular art, trade or profession being possessed of peculiar knowledge concerning the same[3]

 The expert has the duty to give an opinion on the issue and also communicate the same with the Judge so the Judge may form his judgment in the subject matter.  In Sri Sundari v. Ganghram[4] It was held that it is the duty of an expert to furnish the judges with the necessary criteria for testing the accuracy of his conclusions, so as to enable the judge to form his own independent judgment by application of the criteria to the facts provided in evidence.

QUALIFICATION OF AN EXPERT The law requires that there should at least be a profession of special qualification that the part of a person who comes forward to dispose to matters lying beyond common knowledge[5].

  • An ‘Expert’ witness is one who has devoted time and study to a special branch of learning
  • He must have special skill and qualifications required for his profession
  • The person who has made the subject upon which he speaks a matter of particular study, practice, or observation will be considered as an expert witness
  • He must have experienced in the related field.

RELEVANCY OF EXPERT OPINION 

The opinion of experts is also known as the opinion of the third person, which is provided under Section 45 of the act. Accordingly, when the court has to form an opinion upon a point of foreign law or of science or art or as to identify the handwriting or finger impression, then the court may seek the opinion of the skilled person and such opinion are to be considered as relevant. For instance, the question is, whether a certain document was written by B. Another document is produced which is proved or admitted to have been written by B. The opinions of experts on the question whether the two documents were written by the same person or by different persons are considered as relevant. Section 45 only confined to five subjects as mentioned above, however, there are some more fields in which the court on its own discretion may seek an expert opinion.

Further, as per Sec. 46 of Indian Evidence Act 1872, it stated that facts, not otherwise relevant, are relevant if they support or are inconsistent with the opinions of experts, when such opinions are relevant, which means any facts which are not so relevant however will be relevant to the opinion if they support the opinions of experts.

Section 47 deals with relevancy as to handwriting, this provision recognized the opinion of non- handwriting expert. This states that whenever the handwriting of any person is in question before the court of law, the court may seek the opinion of a person who is acquainted with the handwriting of former person and the same will be relevant and admissible as evidence in the court. In shankarappa v. Sushilabai[6]  it was held that the wife can be regarded as the person acquainted with the handwriting of her husband.

Section 48 provides that When the Court has to form an opinion as to the existence of any general custom or right, the opinions of the person who are in a position to know about its existence are relevant.

The opinion as to usages, tenants, etc will also be considered as to relevant under Section 49 of the act, in addition, section 50 provides that When the Court has to form an opinion as to the relationship of one person to another, the opinion, expressed by conduct, as to the existence of such relationship, or any person who, as a member of the family or otherwise, has special means of knowledge on the subject, is a relevant fact. For instance, the question is, whether A and B were married. The fact that they were usually received and treated by their friends as husband and wife is relevant. In the case Sree Ram Sardarmal Didwani v. Gauri Shankar[7] it was held that the person whose opinion is sought to be proved for the purpose of proving the existence of relationship must be the person who either as member of the family or otherwise has a special means of knowledge as to such relationship.

 Further, Section 51 of the act provides whenever the opinion of any living person is relevant, the grounds on which such opinion is based are also relevant. According to this, the reasons are required to be produced by the expert in forming any opinion in the court.

ADMISSIBILITY OF EXPERT EVIDENCE:

The admissibility of expert evidence is based on the discretion of the Courts, the expert opinion may be accepted or denied by the court since the court is not bound by the evidence of the experts which is to a large extent advisory in nature[8]. Further, in the case, Hon’ble Supreme Court has laid down that mere assertion without mentioning the data or basis in support of his opinion is not evidence, even if it comes from an expert[9]. It is admissible only when the expert gives sufficient evidence to the court.  The Expert should support his findings with reason since without reasoning expert findings may get rejected. In addition, he may also be examined as a witness and is cross-examined as mere submission of any document is not sufficient enough. Further, An Expert opinion can be taken in both Civil as well as criminal courts. Analysis of forensic evidence is used in the investigation and prosecution of civil and criminal proceedings. Forensic expert assist the court and investigating team to establish the guilt of accused

CONCLUSION

The evidence given by experts under 45 is supportive evidence and not the only basis for conclusive proof. Section 47 to 50 laid opinion relating to handwriting, the existence of right or custom. usages, tenets, and relationships may be admitted in the court of law. If the court doesn’t take any expert opinion, then there could be difficulty in resolving the issue, and the same will led to the suppression of important evidence in the matter. Thus, Expert opinions assist the court in order to reach out to the conclusion and also help in finding the best solution of any case.


[1] Lawson Expert Testimony, 2nd edn., Pg. 229.

[2] Civil Appeal No. 5991 of 2002, SC

[3] Punjab Singh vs. State: 1974 Kashmir Law Journal: P.404

[4] (1979) All 38

[5] Rowley v. London & North Western Railway Company (1873) LR 8 Exch 221

[6] AIR 1994 kant 112

[7] AIR 1961 Bom. 136

[8] Malay Kumar Ganguly v/s Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee

[9] State of Maharashtra v/s Damus/o Gopinath Shinde and others, AIR 2000 SC 1691

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