Criminal psychology is difficult to understand and even difficult to recognize a criminal amidst everyone. They think and act in a calculative manner and they do every possible thing to make them not look guilty. They lie, come up with new stories, hide, and replace documents. Therefore, if there was no available statute governing the law of evidence, criminals would have been very difficult to convict as an individual could not simply be convicted based on circumstantial evidence. Law requires proof. For this purpose, during the British Raj, the Imperial Legislative Council passed the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. It is a set of rules that regulate the nature, quality, and authenticity of the evidence. Evidence helps in forming the chain of events that led to the crime. One of the most important concepts in evidence is the ‘doctrine of res gestae’. According to this doctrine, any statement or utterance made coextending to the occurrence of that event (subject-issue) leaves approximately little or no room for any alteration, misunderstanding, or misrepresentation by any the people who witness any crime. For instance, ‘A’ is in the parking lot of a departmental store and notices a man running wearing a black hoody and then hears someone shouting ‘He killed the manager! The man with the black hoody is on the loose!’. Later, the killer is caught and at his trial, ‘A’ is called to testify as an eyewitness. In this case, A’s testimony would be taken into account.
~Res Gestate As A Hearsay Exception~
Under the Evidence Law, not everything said or done could be admissible and in order to meet the requirement for ‘admissible evidence’ in the court of law, it is necessary that it credits or discredits the matter in issue in a trial. The term ‘admission’ is defined under Section 17 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. There are numerous types of evidence under the Indian Evidence Act, such as:
Oral Evidence – As the name suggests, oral evidence includes the things heard or seen by the witness first hand and this kind of evidence leaves a monumental impact on the case. It is defined under Section 60 of the Indian Evidence Act.
Documentary Evidence – Almost every law student has felt the pain of Mike (in Episode 3, Suits) when he was assigned to inspect all the documents. You see, documents play can a crucial role in determining the chain of events that led to the crime, however, it is necessary to find the document i.e., going to affect the case. Documentary evidence is defined under Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act. For instance, in the case of embezzlement, the records of the transactions play a crucial role.
Primary Evidence – Primary evidence is the one i.e., admitted in the court of law for inspection, it is one of the most crucial evidence that is presented in the trial. Section 62 of the Act lays down the definition for the same.
Secondary Evidence – Section 63 defines secondary evidence and it is admitted in the court when the primary evidence is not present.
Real Evidence – It is the kind of evidence that can be obtained from the inspection of the crime scene. For instance, any physical object such as a knife, fingerprints, DNA, blood samples, etc.
Judicial Evidence – These are facts that are proved or disproved in the trial, however, they do include any inferences made by the counsels. For instance, in the movie A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise was questioning the Colonel and he admitted to the Code Red, here this confession will amount to Judicial evidence.
Non-Judicial Evidence – In one of my articles, I discussed Miranda warning and how it is read to the suspects in order to let them have knowledge of their rights before they make any self-incriminatory statements. You see, suspects when making statements or confessions outside the court of law can be admitted, however, they do need to be proved. These kinds of statements or confessions fall under the category of Non-Judicial evidence.
Direct Evidence – It is the fact that does not require any type of reasoning. For instance, the testimony given by a witness acts as a form of Direct evidence.
Indirect Evidence – Most commonly referred to as circumstantial evidence. Unlike Direct evidence, it requires additional evidence in order for it to make any assertion. For instance, A is suspected of killing B on the night of 4th July 2019, and A’s car was seen around the area where B lives on the night of the murder. Here, the presence of A’s car is circumstantial evidence and it does require additional evidence.
Hearsay Evidence – Hearsay evidence is when a person himself hasn’t witnessed or heard anything linked to the matter in issue but instead has got the knowledge about the instance through another person. This kind of evidence is weakest out of all and is usually disregarded, however, there are exceptions to that rule and one exception is the principle of res gestae.
~The Principle of Res Gestae~
The term is derived from the Latin phrase and it means ‘things done’. Although there is no conclusive definition for the term, it has been in practice for a long time. It is believed that the term first surfaced in the case Thompson v. Trevanion, 1693 and since the early 1800s, the term started taking shape and became a proper doctrine. According to the most acknowledged description, Res Gestae means any statement, declaration, or utterance i.e., coexistant to an occurrence of the event that proves the happening of that event. For example, A witnesses a car crash and hears the person shouting from one of the cars that ‘his brakes have failed’. Here, this statement heard by A will amount to Res Gestae as it is part of the same transaction of events and there is absolutely no or very little chance of any alteration, misrepresentation, or miscommunication.
Section 6 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 lays down the principle of Res Gestae. The section simply states that facts that although not in issue are so closely connected to the fact-in-issue that they form part of the same transaction. For instance, A is accused of the murder of B by beating him. Whatever was said or done by A or B or the by-standers at the beating, or so shortly before or after it as to form part of the transaction, is a relevant fact and hence, will be admissible. Although hearsay evidence is not admitted in the court of law, Res Gestae is admissible. The rationale being that such statements are made so immediately and spontaneously that there is almost no room for any modification or misrepresentation and therefore, such statements help in creating a vivid picture of the occurrence of the crime.
The principle of Res Gestae can be a little confusing to understand, however, it’s really not that difficult. Just remember that if you:
witness any crime;
you are part of that transaction (chain of events leading towards the crime);
and anything heard or seen by you can be admitted in the court of law
under the principle of Res Gestae.
The Indian Evidence Act, 1872