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Hearsay evidence

The test to distinguish between direct and hearsay evidence is. that it is direct if the Court to act upon it has to rely upon not only the witness, whereas it is hearsay if it has to rely upon not only the witness, but some other person also “Direct evidence” used in Section 67 of the Act means original evidence in contradistinction to the word “indirect” or circumstantial evidence or “hearsay evidence”. “Hearsay evidence” is also called “derivative evidence”.

Hearsay evidence is properly speaking, secondary evidence of any oral statement. According to Taylor, hearsay evidence is “all the evidence which does not derive its value solely from the credit given to the witness himself, but which rests also in part on the veracity and competence of some other person.” Taylor on Evidence (page 401)].

Bentham’s definition is : “The supposed oral testimony transmitted through orally delivered evidence of a supposedly extra-judicially narrating witness judicially delivered viva voce by the judicially deposing witness”. The reasons advanced for rejection of hearsay are numerous, among them being possible irresponsibility of the original declarant, depreciation of truth in the process of repetition, opportunity for embolishment which its admission would offer.

Two principal objections however are, (a) lack of an oath and (b) absence of an opportunity of cross-examining the declarant. Wigmore is of the view that it is the fact that the adverse party has had no opportunity to cross-examine the maker of an extra-judicial statement that is the real basis of the exclusion of hearsay. But as Phipson points out : “No single principle can be assigned as having operated to exclude hearsay generally, or from any ascertainable date.”

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