Documentary evidence means and includes all documents produced before the Court for its inspection. Documents are divided into two categories, Public Documents and Private Documents. The production of Documents in Court is regulated by Civil Procedure Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. The contents of documents must be proved either by the production of document which is called Primary Evidence or Secondary Evidence.      

1) Meaning of Documentary Evidence

        According to Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 Documentary Evidence means, All Documents produced for the inspection of the Court; such documents are called documentary evidence.

        The expression “Document” means any matter expressed or described upon any substance by means of letters, figures or marks, or by more than one of those means, intended to be used, or which may be used, for the purpose of recording that matter.

Illustrations : 

A writing is a document;

Words printed, lithographed or photographed are documents;

A map or plan is a document;

An inscription on a metal plate or stone is a document;

A caricature is a document.

2) Kinds of Documentary evidence : 

           There are two kinds of Documentary Evidence, Primary Evidence and Secondary Evidence. Primary evidence is that which is the law requires to be given first and the Secondary Evidence is that such can be given in the absence of the Primary Evidence.

I) Primary Evidence -

                    According to Section 62 of the Indian Evidence Act,  "Primary evidence means the document itself produced for the inspection of the Court.

Explanation 1 : 

             Where a document is executed in several parts, each part is primary evidence of the document.
             Where a document is executed in counterparts, 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.


                A person is shown to have been in possession of a number of placards, all printed at one time from one original. Any one of the placards is primary evidence of the contents of any other, but no one of them is primary evidence of the contents of the original.

      Primary Evidence is original document which is presented to the Court. Primary Evidence is the best Evidence in all circumstances, No notice is required before giving primary evidence, in case of Secondary evidence notice is required. The value of Primary evidence is highest.

II) Secondary Evidence

Section 63 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 deals with Secondary Evidence,  Secondary evidence means and includes -

 1. Certified copies given under the provisions hereinafter contained;

 2. Copies made from the original by mechanical processes which in themselves insure the accuracy of the copy and copies compared with such copies;

 3. Copies made from or compared with the original;

 4. Counterparts of documents as against the parties who did not execute them;

 5. Oral accounts of the contents of a document given by some person who has himself seen it.


  a) A photograph of an original is secondary evidence of its contents, though the two have not been compared, if it is proved that the thing photographed was the original.

 b) A copy compared with a copy of a letter made by copying machine is secondary evidence of the contents of the letter, if it is shown that the copy made by the copying machine was made from the original.

 c) A copy transcribed from a copy, but afterwards compared with the original, is secondary evidence, but the copy not so compared is not secondary evidence of the original, although the copy from which it was transcribed was compared with the original.

 d) Neither an oral account of a copy compared with the original, nor an oral account of a photo graph or machine copy of the original, is secondary evidence of the original.

       Secondary Document is the document which is not original document.  Giving Secondary Evidence is exception to the general rule. Notice is required to be given before giving secondary evidence. The value of Secondary evidence is not as that of Primary Evidence

See also....

When Secondary Evidence is Admissible ? 

Distinction Between Primary Evidence and Secondary Evidence  


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