Relevant facts have been defined in Section 3 and 5 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (hereinafter referred to as 'Act'). A perusal of both the provisions says that evidence may be given of- (i) the existence or non-existence of facts in issue; and (ii) of such other relevant facts. The first part deals with points to facts which directly tend to prove or disprove facts in issue and the second part refers to collateral facts which are so inseparably connected with the facts in issue that they indirectly and presumptively tend to prove or disprove any fact in issue1.

Furthermore, relevancy (determined by rules of the Act) is the test of admissibility2. All relevant facts may not be admissible (they may be ruled out due to prejudice, paucity of time, confusion) but all admissible facts are relevant. While relevancy is based on logic, admissibility only relies on lawful pertinence, i.e., whether a fact can be permitted in Court on the basis of the Act. Relevant facts can thus be termed as genus and admissibility as its specie.

As per Bentham3, one fact is relevant to another, if the effect or tendency of the former when presented to the mind, is to produce a persuasion concerning the existence of some other matter of fact. As such the relation between factum probandum and factum probans is called relevancy4. As per Sir James Fitzjames Stephen5, relevant means any two facts to which it is applied are so related to each other that, according to the common course of events, either taken by itself or in conjunction with other facts, proves or renders probable past, present or future existence, or non-existence of the other.

Section 5-55 of the Act deals with what facts are relevant; but the mere fact of logical relevancy does not ensure the admissibility of a fact. Very often, public considerations of fairness and the practical necessity for reaching speedy decisions necessarily cause the rejection of much of the evidence which may be logically relevant. Cases of exclusion of logically relevant facts by positive rules of law are:

(i) Exclusion of oral by documentary evidence: Sections 91-99.

(ii) Exclusion of evidence of facts by estoppel: Sections. 115-117.

(iii) Exclusion of privileged communications, such as confidential communications with a legal adviser, communication during marriage, official communications, etc.: Sections. 121-130

Thus, relevancy may be considered in the decision-making process.

On the other hand, admissible facts are though strings of relevant facts which are admissible in Court. Section 136 of the Act states that it is the judge which would decide on the admissibility of a fact/document. The essential ingredients of the Section 136 are6:

  • The judge will decide the questions of relevancy and admissibility.
  • When a party proposes to adduce evidence of any fact, the Judge may ask the party to clarify 'in what manner' the fact would be relevant.
  • The Judge would 'admit' the particular adduced fact only if he is satisfied with the answer of the party that it is, indeed, relevant under one or the other provisions of S. 6 to 55.

Thus, it is always the consideration of relevancy that comes first and that of admissibility comes later, and the judge will admit the fact only if it is relevant.

Admissibility is based on law and not logic. Facts which may have no logical relevance may sometimes be admissible in Courts. After an evidence has been declared logically relevant and legally admissible, how it was obtained becomes irrelevant.

The Supreme Court in Ram Bihari Yadav vs. State of Bihar7, has observed that more often the expressions 'relevancy and admissibility' are used as synonyms but their legal implications are distinct and different from for more often than not facts which are relevant are not admissible; so also facts which are admissible may not be relevant, for example questions permitted to put in cross examination to test the veracity or impeach the credit of witnesses, though not relevant are admissible. The probative value of the evidence is the weight to be given to it which has to be judged having regards to the fact and circumstances of each case.

The Hon'ble Bombay High Court in Lakshmandas Chaganlal Bhatia v. State8, laid down the following to be "relevant facts:

  • Facts necessary to explain or introduce a fact in issue or relevant fact;
  • Facts which support or rebut an inference suggested by a fact in issue or a relevant fact;
  • Facts which establish the identity of anything or person whose identity is relevant;
  • Facts which fix the time and place at which any fact in issue or relevant fact happened;
  • Facts which show the relation of parties by whom any fact in issue or relevant fact was transacted.

Admissibility of evidence is decided based on the provisions of the Act or any other relevant written law, not from the deduction of the facts itself. In the case of Sris Chandra Nandy v Rakhalananda [AIR 1941 PC 16] Lord Atkin ruled that " is not open for any judge to exercise a dispensing power , and admit evidence not admissible by the statute because to him it appears that the irregular evidence would throw light upon the issue..."

As seen from above, Admissibility of evidence is strictly based on law whereas relevancy is based on logic and probability. Secondly, Admissibility declares whether an evidence is admissible or not, whereas relevancy declares whether the given facts are relevant to the facts in question.

As held by the Hon'ble Gujarat High Court in State of Gujarat vs Ashulal Nanji Bisnol9, there is no express or implied mandate laid down in the Act with respect to relevancy and admissibility. By phrase "admissible and relevant", it clearly means that admissible for the consideration of the judge, "admissible and relevant" for the consideration of the judge to pronounce the judgment. It cannot be laid down, therefore, that the statements or documents which are not admissible or relevant, cannot be taken on the record. It is nowhere provided by the Act that the material which the judge thinks not relevant or inadmissible, cannot be brought on record. Evidence and material which may not be relevant or admissible cannot be precluded from placing on record.


1 Sarkar's Law of Evidence

2 Ibid

3 Bentham, Rationale of Evidence (1872)

4 Ibid

5 Stephen, Digest of Law of Evidence

6 Dr. V. N. Rao on Indian Evidence Act

7 1998 AIR 1859 (SC).

8 1968 69 AIR 807 (Bom)

9 2002(4) Crimes 47

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.