Unveiling the Power of Digital Evidence: Exploring its Role and Admissibility in Modern Legal Proceedings

Image Courtesy: Centre for Academic Legal Research

Digital evidence refers to any form of electronic information that can be collected and presented in legal proceedings to establish facts or support claims. It encompasses a wide range of data, including emails, text messages, social media posts, digital photographs, videos, and computer-generated records. In today’s technologically advanced world, digital evidence plays a crucial role in various legal cases, including criminal investigations, civil disputes, and intellectual property infringement. It provides a digital footprint that can shed light on the intentions, actions, and communications of individuals involved in a case.

The admissibility and weight given to digital evidence depend on several factors, including its relevance, authenticity, and integrity. Courts consider whether the evidence was obtained legally, whether it has been tampered with, and whether it can be verified as a true and accurate representation of the original data. In many jurisdictions, specific rules and procedures govern the collection, preservation, and presentation of digital evidence to ensure its reliability and fairness. Legal professionals, including forensic experts, play a vital role in analyzing and presenting digital evidence to assist in establishing the truth and resolving legal disputes effectively. With the rapid advancements in technology, the role of digital evidence continues to evolve, shaping the way cases are investigated, litigated, and ultimately decided in courts worldwide.

  1. Anvar P.V. v. P.K. Basheer (2014): In this case, the Supreme Court of India clarified the admissibility of electronic evidence and the requirements for its authentication. The court held that electronic records, including WhatsApp messages, can be admitted as evidence if the authenticity of the electronic record is proved in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
  2. Shafhi Mohammad v. State of Himachal Pradesh (2018): The Supreme Court in this case reiterated the importance of the electronic evidence and held that secondary evidence, such as copies or printouts of electronic records, can be admitted if the conditions mentioned under Section 65B(4) of the Indian Evidence Act are satisfied. The court emphasized the necessity of a certificate under Section 65B(4) for the admissibility of electronic evidence.
  3. Zafar Iqbal v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2019): The Allahabad High Court in this case highlighted the evidentiary value of WhatsApp messages and held that they can be treated as valid electronic evidence, provided they are properly proved and authenticated as per the requirements of the law.
  4. Ritesh Sinha v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2019): In this case, the Allahabad High Court held that WhatsApp messages can be admissible as evidence if they fulfill the requirements of relevancy and authenticity. The court observed that the content of WhatsApp messages can be used to establish the state of mind, intention, or any other relevant fact in a criminal proceeding.
  5. Arjun Panditrao Khotkar v. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal (2020): The Supreme Court of India in this case addressed the issue of admissibility of electronic evidence, including WhatsApp messages. The court held that the certificate required under Section 65B(4) of the Indian Evidence Act is not always mandatory for the admissibility of electronic evidence. The court ruled that the trial court has the discretion to admit electronic evidence even without a certificate, provided the authenticity of the electronic record is proved by other means.
  6. State of Haryana v. Jai Bhagwan (2019): In this case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court emphasized the evidentiary value of WhatsApp messages and held that they can be admitted as evidence to prove the guilt or innocence of the accused. The court stated that the admissibility of WhatsApp messages would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case and their relevance and authenticity must be established.

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