The Complete Guide To Electronic Records & Evidence In Indian Law

Century Law Firm


Century Law Firm
The landscape of evidence in legal proceedings has undergone a significant transformation with the advent of the digital age.
India Privacy
To print this article, all you need is to be registered or login on


Evolution of Digital Evidence and Its Growing Importance

The landscape of evidence in legal proceedings has undergone a significant transformation with the advent of the digital age. In India, as in many parts of the world, the role of digital evidence has been steadily increasing, reflecting the profound impact of technology on society. This evolution is characterized by a shift from reliance on physical documents and oral testimony to a more nuanced and complex reliance on electronic records.

Digital evidence includes a wide array of electronic materials, such as emails, text messages, social media posts, digital photographs, and even information extracted from IoT (Internet of Things) devices. The versatility and ubiquity of digital information pose both opportunities and challenges in the legal context. On the one hand, digital evidence can be more easily stored, searched, and transmitted. On the other hand, issues related to authenticity, privacy, and technical complexity arise.

In India, the legal framework governing electronic records and digital evidence has been evolving to keep pace with technological advancements. This is evident in amendments to various laws, including the Indian Evidence Act and the Information Technology Act, which recognize and regulate digital evidence. These legislative changes underscore the growing importance of understanding the nuances of electronic records in legal proceedings.

Transition from Traditional Forms of Evidence

The transition from traditional forms of evidence to digital evidence marks a significant shift in legal practice. Traditional evidence, comprising mainly of physical documents, tangible items, and oral testimonies, has a long history in the judicial process. The introduction of electronic evidence brings a paradigm shift, requiring legal professionals to acquire new skills and adapt to new methodologies.

This transition is not just technical but also cultural. It challenges long-standing legal principles, such as the best evidence rule, which traditionally preferred original over secondary copies. With digital evidence, the distinction between original and copy is often blurred, requiring courts and legal practitioners to rethink conventional concepts.

International Trends and Global Best Practices

Internationally, the approach to electronic records and digital evidence is continually evolving. Countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and members of the European Union have developed comprehensive frameworks and guidelines to manage digital evidence effectively. These frameworks often emphasize principles such as authenticity, integrity, reliability, and accessibility of digital evidence.

Global best practices in handling digital evidence include strict adherence to chain-of-custody procedures, use of standardized formats for electronic discovery (eDiscovery), and employment of forensically sound methods for data extraction and preservation. These practices ensure that digital evidence remains reliable and admissible in court.

India, in its quest to align with these international trends, has been updating its legal provisions and training its judiciary and law enforcement agencies. These efforts are aimed at enhancing the competency in dealing with the intricacies of digital evidence, thereby strengthening the legal system's ability to administer justice in the digital age.

In summary, the evolution of digital evidence in Indian law is a reflection of the broader global trends in legal practice, necessitating a comprehensive understanding of the nuances of electronic records. This guide aims to navigate through these complexities, providing insights into the current state of digital evidence in India and the best practices adopted globally.


Relevant Legal Framework in India

The legal framework governing electronic records in India is primarily derived from two key legislations: The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. These acts provide the foundational legal basis for the admissibility, relevance, and authentication of electronic records in Indian courts.

Indian Evidence Act, 1872 – Key Sections

The Indian Evidence Act, established in 1872, has been amended to incorporate provisions for electronic records. Key sections relevant to electronic records include:

  • Section 65B: Pertains to the admissibility of electronic records. It states that any information contained in an electronic record, which is printed on a paper, stored, recorded, or copied in optical or magnetic media, is deemed to be a document and is admissible in legal proceedings, without the need for the original device.
  • Section 85A: Deals with the presumption as to electronic agreements, recognizing them as valid and binding.
  • Section 85B: Relates to the presumption as to electronic records and digital signatures, giving them the same recognition as physical signatures.
  • Section 88A: Recognizes electronic messages as evidence, assuming the identity of the sender and the integrity of the communication, unless proven otherwise.

IT Act, 2000

The Information Technology Act, 2000, was primarily enacted to provide legal recognition for transactions carried out by means of electronic data interchange and other means of electronic communication. Key points include:

  • Section 43A: Imposes compensation for failure to protect data.
  • Section 66: Criminalizes the act of hacking and data theft.
  • Section 72A: Provides for penalties for breach of confidentiality and privacy in the context of electronic records.

Comparative Analysis with Global Regulations

Globally, the approach to electronic records varies, but there are common threads. For instance, the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) emphasizes data protection and privacy, while the United States' Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) focus on the admissibility and management of electronic evidence. The key difference lies in the specific provisions and the extent of emphasis on privacy and security.

Evidentiary Standards in Electronic Records

In India, as well as globally, electronic records must meet certain evidentiary standards to be admissible in court. These include authenticity (the record truly comes from its purported source), reliability (the record has been maintained in a manner that assures its integrity), and relevance (the record is relevant to the case at hand). Additionally, compliance with prescribed procedures for the storage and retrieval of such records is crucial.

Section 2: Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act

Full Text & Clause-by-Clause Explanation

Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act:

65B. Admissibility of electronic records. –– (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, any information contained in an electronic record which is printed on a paper, stored, recorded or copied in optical or magnetic media produced by a computer (hereinafter referred to as the computer output) shall be deemed to be also a document, if the conditions mentioned in this section are satisfied in relation to the information and computer in question and shall be admissible in any proceedings, without further proof or production of the original, as evidence or any contents of the original or of any fact stated therein of which direct evidence would be admissible.
(2) The conditions referred to in sub-section (1) in respect of a computer output shall be the following, namely: ––
(a) the computer output containing the information was produced by the computer during the period over which the computer was used regularly to store or process information for the purposes of any activities regularly carried on over that period by the person having lawful control over the use of the computer;
(b) during the said period, information of the kind contained in the electronic record or of the kind from which the information so contained is derived was regularly fed into the computer in the ordinary course of the said activities;
(c) throughout the material part of the said period, the computer was operating properly or, if not, then in respect of any period in which it was not operating properly or was out of operation during that part of the period, was not such as to affect the electronic record or the accuracy of its contents; and
(d) the information contained in the electronic record reproduces or is derived from such information fed into the computer in the ordinary course of the said activities.
(3) Where over any period, the function of storing or processing information for the purposes of any activities regularly carried on over that period as mentioned in clause (a) of sub-section (2) was regularly performed by computers, whether––
(a) by a combination of computers operating over that period; or
(b) by different computers operating in succession over that period; or
(c) by different combinations of computers operating in succession over that period; or
(d) in any other manner involving the successive operation over that period, in whatever order, of one or more computers and one or more combinations of computers, all the computers used for that purpose during that period shall be treated for the purposes of this section as constituting a single computer; and references in this section to a computer shall be construed accordingly.
(4) In any proceedings where it is desired to give a statement in evidence by virtue of this section, a certificate doing any of the following things, that is to say, ––
(a) identifying the electronic record containing the statement and describing the manner in which it was produced;
(b) giving such particulars of any device involved in the production of that electronic record as may be appropriate for the purpose of showing that the electronic record was produced by a computer;
(c) dealing with any of the matters to which the conditions mentioned in sub-section (2) relate, and purporting to be signed by a person occupying a responsible official position in relation to the operation of the relevant device or the management of the relevant activities (whichever is appropriate) shall be evidence of any matter stated in the certificate; and for the purposes of this subsection it shall be sufficient for a matter to be stated to the best of the knowledge and belief of the
person stating it.
(5) For the purposes of this section, ––
(a) information shall be taken to be supplied to a computer if it is supplied thereto in any appropriate form and whether it is so supplied directly or (with or without human intervention) by means of any appropriate equipment;
(b) whether in the course of activities carried on by any official, information is supplied with a view to its being stored or processed for the purposes of those activities by a computer operated otherwise than in the course of those activities, that information, if duly supplied to that computer, shall be taken to be supplied to it in the course of those activities;
(c) a computer output shall be taken to have been produced by a computer whether it was produced by it directly or (with or without human intervention) by means of any appropriate equipment.
Explanation.––For the purposes of this section any reference to information being derived from other information shall be a reference to its being derived therefrom by calculation, comparison or any other process.]

Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act is a cornerstone in the legal framework regarding electronic records in India. It details how electronic records should be treated within the judicial system. Let's break down its clauses for a clearer understanding:

  • Section 65B (1): It marks the acceptance of electronic records as evidence. This clause is revolutionary as it allows for electronic data – encompassing a vast spectrum from emails to digital recordings – to be considered equivalent to physical documents in legal settings.
  • Section 65B (2): This part outlines the conditions that need to be met for the electronic record to be deemed admissible. It includes stipulations about the regular usage of the computer for lawful activities and the functioning of the computer during the period of relevance. This is crucial for establishing the reliability of the data.
  • Section 65B (3): This part addresses the scenario where multiple computers, or different combinations of computers, have been used over a period for the purpose of storing or processing information for regularly carried out activities. This section clarifies that all such computers, whether operating individually, in succession, or in any combination over that period, are to be treated as a single computer for the purposes of the Act. This provision ensures a holistic approach in considering electronic evidence, recognizing the complexity and variability in modern computing environments.
  • Section 65B (4): Perhaps the most critical clause, it mandates a certificate to accompany the electronic record. This certificate, issued by a responsible authority/person, validates the electronic record and is necessary for its admissibility in court.
  • Sub-section (5) clarifies the scope and definition of information supply to a computer. It encompasses the following:
    • Information supplied in any form directly or indirectly to a computer is recognized.
    • Information supplied for storage or processing in any official activity, even if the computer is operated outside those activities, is considered part of those activities.
    • A computer output is recognized as produced by a computer, whether directly or indirectly.

Judicial Interpretations

The interpretation of Section 65B has been subject to significant judicial scrutiny, evolving with landmark judgments that shape its application.

State vs Navjot Sandhu (2005)

In the landmark case of State vs Navjot Sandhu, concerning the 2001 Indian Parliament attack, the Supreme Court ruled that electronic records, particularly mobile phone records, could be admitted as evidence even without a certificate under Section 65B. This judgment was pivotal in recognizing electronic evidence's importance and utility in legal proceedings.

Anvar P.V. vs P.K Basheer (2014)

Contrasting the earlier stance in Navjot Sandhu, the Supreme Court in Anvar P.V. vs P.K Basheer emphasized the mandatory requirement of a certificate under Section 65B(4) for the admissibility of an electronic record as secondary evidence. This judgment underscored the importance of compliance with statutory requirements, reinforcing the procedural sanctity in handling electronic evidence.

This particular judgment marked a significant shift, bringing forth a stringent approach towards the admissibility of electronic records, aligning more closely with the intent of the legislators when Section 65B was formulated.

Shafhi Mohammad vs State of HP (2018)

The Supreme Court's decision in Shafhi Mohammad vs State of Himachal Pradesh (2018) further nuanced the understanding of Section 65B. In this case, the Court relaxed the requirement of a certificate under Section 65B(4) for certain scenarios. Specifically, it was held that if an electronic record is produced by a person who is not in possession of the device from which the electronic record is produced, the requirement of a certificate is not always mandatory. This judgment aimed to address practical difficulties and ensure that justice is not denied due to procedural technicalities.

Arjun Panditrao Khotkar vs Kailash Gorantyal (2020)

In Arjun Panditrao Khotkar vs Kailash Gorantyal (2020), the Supreme Court overruled the decision in Shafhi Mohammad to an extent. It was clarified that the certificate requirement under Section 65B(4) is a necessity for the admissibility of any electronic record. The court acknowledged the challenges in obtaining such certificates but emphasized the importance of this procedural safeguard to ensure the reliability of electronic evidence. This judgment represents the current position of law regarding the admissibility of electronic records in India.

Decoding Each Sub-section

Each sub-section of Section 65B serves a distinct purpose in ensuring the admissibility and reliability of electronic evidence:

  • Sub-section (1) establishes the foundation for electronic records to be considered as evidence.
  • Sub-section (2) provides the criteria for an electronic record to be reliable, focusing on the regular use of the computer and the integrity of data processing.
  • Sub-section (3) emphasizes that the continuity and integrity of the electronic record are maintained, regardless of the number of devices involved.
  • Sub-section (4), with its certificate requirement, acts as a crucial authentication tool, certifying the legitimacy of the electronic record and the process of its creation.
  • Sub-section (5) ensures a broad understanding of how information is treated when supplied to a computer, relevant for legal proceedings involving electronic records.

Flowchart on Sec 65B Requirements

To enhance understanding, a flowchart delineating the requirements of Section 65B can be immensely helpful. This visual tool will illustrate the steps and conditions necessary for the admissibility of electronic evidence as per this section. Let's create a detailed flowchart to encapsulate these requirements.

The flowchart above provides a visual breakdown of the requirements under Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act for the admissibility of electronic records. It systematically outlines each sub-section, highlighting their specific roles and stipulations:

  • Sub-section (1) establishes electronic records as potential evidence.
  • Sub-section (2) sets the criteria for the reliability of these records.
  • Sub-section (3) ensures the continuity and integrity of the electronic record are maintained, regardless of the number of devices involved.
  • Sub-section (4) mandates the certificate requirement for authenticating the electronic record.
  • Sub-section (5) gives definition and scope of information supply to computer


This flowchart serves as a valuable tool for understanding the procedural intricacies involved in presenting electronic records as evidence in legal proceedings.

Section 3: Admissibility of Electronic Evidence

Criteria for Admissibility in India

The admissibility of electronic evidence in Indian courts is governed by a set of criteria designed to ensure the integrity and reliability of such evidence. These criteria include relevance, authenticity, non-tampering, and reliability.

  • Relevance: This is the foundational criterion for any evidence, electronic or otherwise. The evidence must be pertinent to the matter at hand in the litigation. Under the Indian Evidence Act, evidence is deemed relevant if it is directly or indirectly connected to the facts in dispute.
  • Authenticity: For electronic evidence to be admissible, it must be proven authentic. This means that the evidence must be shown to be what it purports to be. For instance, a digital document or an email must be proven to originate from the alleged source.
  • Non-Tampering: Given the malleable nature of digital data, it's crucial to establish that the electronic evidence has not been tampered with or altered. The integrity of the data from the time of its creation to its presentation in court must be maintained.
  • Reliability: This criterion relates to the quality and consistency of the electronic evidence. It must be collected, stored, and transferred in a manner that preserves its reliability. This includes ensuring that the systems and processes used to handle the electronic evidence are secure and robust.


Dowload - The Complete Guide To Electronic Records & Evidence In Indian Law

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

See More Popular Content From

Mondaq uses cookies on this website. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies as set out in our Privacy Policy.

Learn More