The Right to Information Act was enacted in the year 2005 and came into force with effect from 15-06-2005. It provides for designation of a Public Information Officer for obtaining information with exemptions from such disclosure and the grounds for rejection in appropriate cases. Section 22 of the Act says that the provisions of the said Act shall have overriding effect on the provisions of other enactments including Official Secrets Act, which are not inconsistent.
Chapter-V of the Evidence Act, 1872 deals with documentary evidence. Section 61 says that the contents of the documents may be proved either by primary evidence or by secondary evidence. The primary evidence is stated to be the document itself produced for the inspection of the Court under Section 62 of the Act. Secondary evidence is defined under Section 63 of the Act. As per Section 64 of the Act, normally, the documents must be proved by primary evidence except in the cases mentioned under the provisions of the Act. Section 65 provides for the circumstances under which secondary evidence may be given. Public documents are defined under Section 74 of the Act. Section 75 of the Act says that all documents other than mentioned in Sec.74 are private. Section 77 says that certified copies may be produced in proof of the contents of the public documents or parts of the public documents of which they purport to be copies. The proof of different categories of public documents is provided under Section 78 of the Act. Section 79 speaks of the presumption as to the genuineness of certified copies. The presumption of documents produced as record of evidence is provided under Section 80 of the Act. Section 81 deals with presumption as to Gazettes, newspapers, private Acts of Parliament and other documents. Hence, the relevant sections of the Evidence Act for the purpose of disposal of the present case are as follows:
Section-62: Primary evidence:
Primary evidence means the documents itself produced for the inspection of the Court.
Explanation 1Where a document is executed in several parts, each part is primary evidence of the document :
Where a document is executed in counterpart, each counterpart being executed by one or some of the parties only, each counterpart is primary evidence as against the parties executing it.
Explanation 2- Where a number of documents are all made by one uniform process, as in the case of printing, lithography, or photography, each is primary evidence of the contents of the rest ; but, where they are all copies of a common original, they are not primary evidence of the contents of the original.
Section-65: Cases in which secondary evidence relating to documents may be given Secondary evidence may be given of the existence, condition, or contents of a documents in the following cases:-
(a) When the original is shown or appears to be in the possession or power of the person against whom the document is sought to be proved , or of any person out of reach of, or not subject to, the process of the Court or of any person legally bound to produce it, and when, after the notice mentioned in section 66, such person does not produce it;
(b) when the existence, condition or contents of the original have been proved to be admitted in writing by the person against whom it is proved or by his representative in interest;
(c) when the original has been destroyed or lost, or when the party offering evidence of its contents cannot, for any other reason not arising from his own default or neglect, produce it in reasonable time;
(d) when the original is of such a nature as not to be easily movable;
(e) when the original is public document within the meaning of section 74;
(f) when the original is a document of which a certified copy is permitted by this Act, or by any other law in force in 40[India] to be given in evidence ;
(g) when the originals consist of numerous accounts or other documents which cannot conveniently be examined in court and the fact to be proved it the general result of the whole collection.
In cases (a), (c) and (d), any secondary evidence of the contents of the document is admissible.
In case (b), the written admission is admissible.
In case (e) or (f), a certified copy of the document, but no other kind of secondary evidence, admissible. In case (g), evidence may be given as to the general result of the documents by any person who has examined them, and who is skilled in the examination of such documents.
Section-74: Public documents The following documents are public documents :- (1) documents forming the acts, or records of the acts
(i) of the sovereign authority,
(ii) of official bodies and tribunals, and
(iii) of public officers, legislative, judicial and executive, [of any part of India or of the Commonwealth ] or of a foreign country;
(2) Public records kept 49[in any State] of private documents.
Hence, a reading of the above provisions makes it clear that the copies obtained under the Right to Information Act certified by the Authorised Information Officer cannot be called as public documents or primary evidence. Explanation-2 of Section 62 makes the position clear. However, if a document is obtained under the Right to Information Act from a competent Authority, it can be asked to be taken as a certified copy if the original satisfies the definition of public document and no formal proof of the same is required. But, in the case of other private documents, the copies of which are obtained under the Right to Information Act, the provisions of Evidence Act with regard to secondary evidence have to be satisfied.