Admissibility of Medical Expert Opinion Evidence in Indian Legal System

Abstract

Evidence is a crucial part of any case which paves a way for its conclusion and helps in deciding the case. The testimony of a person who is summoned as a witness is only considered a fact in respect of that case not the opinion. It is a judge who gives opinion in a case. However, there is an exception to this as the experts give their opinion as a witness on a particular subject matter of the case in which they have specialization or they are skilled. The court needs opinion of the expert in the subject matter in which the court has not adequate knowledge. The reasoning behind the expert opinion is that it is practicallynot possible for the judges to have adequate knowledge in all fields. This article particularly deals with the ‘medical expert opinion’ and its admissibility as an evidence in the Indian Legal System.

Keywords: Evidence, Testimony, Expert, Medical Expert Opinion, The Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Introduction 

The word ‘expert’ means “a person with a high level of knowledge or skill relating to a particular subject or area”. The word ‘expert’ is also defined in section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, which defined expert as “the person specially skilled in the particular areas”. The Indian evidence Act, 1872 consider a person as an expert in areas of specialization like “foreign law, science and art, identity of handwriting and identity of finger impression, electronic evidence” and the opinion given by the experts in the above-mentioned areas only are considered relevant. Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, makes experts opinions, who are specialized in above mentioned field, admissible. Thus ‘medical expert opinion is also admissible under section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.   For example: The question is, whether the death of A was caused by poison; then in this situation, the opinions of experts as to the symptoms produced by the poison by which A is supposed to have died are relevant.

There are many cases which includes medical technicalities and in that case the court requires opinion of a medical expert.Medical experts are the persons who have special knowledge in the field of medical science. The court can ask for medical expert opinion in both civil and criminal cases. It is especially required in criminal cases where the medical examination of both accused and victim plays an important part role in concluding the decision. Based on that examination the court requires opinions of the medical expert. For example: in a case of murder the medical examination of deceased finds outwhen the offence was committed and which weapon was used in the commission of the murder.

Corroboration of Medical evidence

Medical evidence plays a crucial role in a case. It is used for proving the guilt of the accused and also as a defense by the accused. Medical Evidence has great importance especially in criminal cases. If there is inconsistency in the testimony of the witness and the medical evidence then the accused can use the same for his defense whereas in the case of consistency of testimony of the witness and the medical evidence produced the prosecution uses it to prove her case. Thus, the medical evidence in corroborative in nature but, it must be produced by such a person who has “scientific knowledge, skill, and personal experience” in the field medical science.

Medical expert opinion in Indian Legal System

The opinion of the medical expert will be admissible in the court as evidence only if the medical expert would provideany authority in support of his opinion. In the case of Mohd Zahid v. State of Tamil Nadu the opinion adduced in an evidence given by a doctor, conducting post mortem, without producing any authority in support of his opinion was considered insufficient to grant conviction to the accused. Its admissibility depends on the discretion of the court. In the case of Shivaji Genu Mohite v. The State of Maharashtra the question raised before the court was “whether death caused to the deceased is homicidal or not”. In this case thecourt did not admitted the medical expert opinion and said that it is of no assistance in concluding the decision. In case of conflict between two medical experts, the court will accept the evidence of the expert whose evidence is corroborated by the direct evidence of the case, which court deems reliable. In the situation of granting divorce under section 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, if the question is raised in respect of the disabilities given under the section is curable or not, then in that situation the medical expert opinion may be of utmost importance. In the case of Awadhesh & Anr v. State of Madhya Pradesh the opinion of the doctor was wholly inconsistent with the testimony of the eye-witnesses but as per the circumstances of the case the court admitted the opinion of the doctor. However, the court always prefer the statement of eye-witness over the expert’s opinion as the statement of witness is based upon the facts of the case.

Conclusion

The medical expert opinion evidence is admissible in Indian Legal System under section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The admissibility of opinion of the medical expert as evidence in Indian legal system depends upon the circumstances of the case and also on the authority which is provided by that medical expert in support of his opinion. Whenever, there will be a case in which medical examination is of utmost importance then in that case, the court will rely on the medical expert’s opinion. If the court is concluding the decision of a case based on the medical expert’s opinion then the court must differentiate between an expert witness and an ordinary witness and also that opinion must be based on thespecial knowledge and skill of that person in medical science. Though such opinion will not be binding on the court, that is, it can be admitted or denied. Thus, the admissibility of medical expert evidence in Indian legal system is depend on the discretion of the court which can admit it or deny it based on circumstances present before the court.

References

  1. Indian Evidence Act, 1872, S 45.

  1. Areti Krishna Kumari, Evidentiary Value of Expert Opinion Under Indian Evidence Act, January 10, 2007, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=956231 (last visited Oct. 4, 2020 02:26 am)

  1. Ms. Shreya Jain and Ms. Ujaala Jain, Expert Evidence, April-June, 2018, http://docs.manupatra.in/newsline/articles/Upload/68598D7D-344C-41C5-9FFD-89CE870BB3BB.pdf (last visited Oct. 4, 2020 02:29 am)

  1. Anjali Dhingra, Expert witness under the Indian Evidence Act,1872, ipleaders blog, (June 2, 2019), https://blog.ipleaders.in/expert-witnesses-under-the-indian-evidence-act-1872/

  1. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/expert

  1. B&B Associates, Medical Evidence Admissibility, November 16, 2018, https://bnblegal.com/article/medical-evidence-admissibility/ (last visited Oct. 7, 2020 02:51 pm).

  1. Rakesh Gorea, Medical Witness and Indian Courts, January, 2007, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236624445_Medical_Witness_and_Indian_Courts (last visited Oct. 4, 2020 02:37 am)

  1. Mohd Zahid v. State of Tamil Nadu, (1999), Cr LJ 3699 SC (India).

  1. Shivaji Genu v. The State of Maharashtra, AIR 1973 SC 55 (India). https://indiankanoon.org/docfragment/667950/?formInput=expert%20medical%20opinion

  1. Awadhesh & Anr v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 1988 AIR 1158 (India). https://indiankanoon.org/docfragment/1079194/?formInput=expert%20medical%20opinion

  1. Piara Singh & Ors v. State of Punjab, AIR 1977, SC 2274 (India).https://indiankanoon.org/docfragment/1891900/?formInput=expert%20medical%20opinion

  1. Sharda v. Dharmpal, AIR 2003 SC 3450 (India). https://indiankanoon.org/docfragment/149969440/?formInput=expert%20medical%20opinion

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