Public Documents

1) Introduction

All the documents may be classified into two categories either ' Public documents' or ' Private documents' . S. 74 of Indian evidence Act deals with definition of Public document whereas S.76 to S.78 deals with the modes or the proof for the purpose of proving the contents of a public document. The public documents are admitted in evidence and as an exception to hearsay rule as the fact contained in them are of public interest and they are the statements made by the authorised and competent agent of public in the course of their official duties.

2) Definition of Public Document.

S.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 in any State of private documents.

          In order to bring documents within the definition of "public document" as laid down in S.74,  it must be shown to gave been prepared by any public servant in the discharge of his official duty. The mere fact that it is kept in a public office does not make it a public document.

        According to the definition given u/s. 74, only those documents are said to be public documents as form of the act and records of public officer. It also includes the act of parliament and state legislatures, proclamation, ordinance, state papers and gazettes.
      The acts and record of acts of the proceedings of the municipal board would come under the category of acts or records of acts of official bodies. Municipal register of birth and death kept by municipal board is a public document. The acts and record of election tribunals are the documents which would come within the meaning of public document.  The record of court of justice and other judicial writings are public documents.
S.74 (2) refers to private document through made by private individuals but kept as record in public offices in order to facilitate public to have an access to it. Such private documents are kept in Public offices are regarded as public documents . for example , S.51 of the Indian registration Act , 1908 provides for the maintenance of certain records of the documents registered and S.57 of the same Act , enables the registration officer to give certified copies of all such documents .

3) Examples of Public documents

1) Birth and death registers of municipalities .

2) Charge sheet

3) confessions recorded by magistrate u/s . 164 of Cr.P.C.

4) Deposition of witnesses recorded by an officer of the Court.

5) Entry in the register of power of attorney kept in the registration office .

6) sanction to prosecute.

7) Notice u/s 106 of Cr.P.C.

8) Record of information u/s.145 Cr.P.C

4) S.75 Private documents 

All other documents are private.

This section simply provides that any document not coming under of the two clauses of S.74 is private document. A deed of contract, memorandum, letter, sale deed, etc .are the private documents.



  5) Certified copies of Public Documents S.76 -

       Every public officer having the custody of a public document, which any person has a right to inspect, shall give that person on demand a copy of it on payment of the legal fees there for together with a certificate written at the foot of such copy that it is a true copy of such document or part thereof, as the case may be, and such certificate shall be dated and subscribed by such officers with his name and his official title, and shall be sealed whenever such officer is authorized by law to make use of a seal, and such copies so certified shall be called certified copies.

Explanation -

Any officer who, by the ordinary course of official duty, is authorized to deliver such copies, shall be deemed to have the custody of such documents within the meaning of this section.

6) S. 77 Proof of documents by production of certified copies :

Such 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 certified copies as referred in S.76 may be produce on proof of the contents of public document or parts of public documents. Any person who has a right to inspect a public document may obtain a certified copy of it from the public officer whose custody it is and may produce before the court for purpose of proving the contents of such public documents. Certified copies are treated as equivalent to originals.

7) S.78 Proof of other official documents :

The following public documents may be proved as follows -

(1) Acts, orders or notifications of the General Government in any of its departments, or of the Crown Representative or of any State Government or any department of any State Government.
By the records of the departments, certified by the heads of those departments respectively, or
By any document purporting to be printed by order of any such Government or as the case may be, of the Crown Representative;

(2) The proceedings of the Legislatures -

by the journals of those bodies respectively, or by published Acts or abstracts, or by copies purporting The Orient Tavern be printed 3by order of the Government concerned;

(3) Proclamations, orders or regulations issued by Her Majesty or by the privy Council, or by any department of Her Majesty’s Government, By copies or extracts contained in the London Gazette, or purporting to be printed by the Queen’s Printer;

(4) The Acts of the Executive or the proceedings of the Legislature of a foreign country -
By journals published by their authority, or commonly received in that country as such, or by a copy certified under the seal of the country or sovereign, or by a recognition thereof in some central Act;

(5) The proceedings of a municipal body in a State, -
By a copy of such proceedings certified by the legal keeper thereof of by a printed book purporting to be published by the authority of such body,

(6) Public documents of any other class in a foreign country, -
by the original, or by a copy certified by the legal keeper thereof with a certificate under the seal of a notary public, or of an Indian consul or diplomatic agent, that the copy is duly certified by the officer having the legal custody of the original and upon proof of the character of the document according to the law of the foreign country.

     This section deals with the special modes of proof are available for the purpose of proving the contents of certain kinds of public documents like government statutes , proceedings of legislatures or of a municipal body .The modes available under this section are nor exhaustive and resort can be had to any other modes also.

8) There are six kinds of public documents referred in S. 78 which are as under -

1) Acts and notifications

2) proceedings of the legislature

3) Proclamation , orders and regulations of her majesty ir of the privy council.

4) This Acts of the executive or proceedings of foreign legislatures .

5 ) Proceedings of municipal bodies

6) Public documents of any other class in a foreign country.


 9) Case law -

A) Manjula V. Mani 1998 Cr. L. J 1476 (mad).

In this case, Madras High Court Held that Hindu Marriage register is a public document. Therefore the certificate copies of such register may be obtained from the office of marriage registrar and the same are admissible in evidence in a criminal charge of bigamy punishable u/s494 Indian penal code.

B) shyam lal  vs State 1998 Cr. l.J. 2879 (All) 

 The first Information report is a public document and said accused is entitled to have its certified copy from the police authorites or from the court on Payment of requisite fee.

10) Conclusion -

Documents are classified into two categories Public And private documents . Any document not come under the definition of Pubic documents are Private documents. Certified copies of a public document may be issued only by public officer having its custody and may be produce in proof of the contents of the public Document.

See also...

Difference between Public Document and Private Document


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