Role of Experts in Litigations
Relevancy of expert opinion as also the definition of Experts has been expressly provided for in Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act , scope of the opinion of expert, an expert is not a witness of fact, Evidence of Experts . Law Articles on various laws , amendments and Judgments from Supreme Court and High Courts in India
Relevancy of expert opinion as also the definition of Experts has been expressly provided for in Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act wherein it has been laid down that when the Court has to form an opinion upon a point of foreign law or of science or art, or as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions, the opinions upon that point of persons specifically skilled in such foreign law, science or art, or in questions as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions are relevant facts. Such persons are called experts. Further vide Section 46 of the Evidence Act such other facts which are otherwise not relevant have been expressly made relevant if they either support or are inconsistent with the opinions of experts, when such opinions are relevant. Some critical points which are very essential as well encompassing the role of the experts in the field of law are given herein-below.
- In the most recent judgment rendered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case titled as Ramesh Chandra Agarwal v/s Regency Hospital Ltd., scope of the opinion of expert has been explained. In order to bring the evidence of a witness as that of an expert it has to be shown that he has made a special study of the subject or acquired a special experience therein or in other words that he is skilled and has adequate knowledge of the subject. An expert is a person who devotes his time and study to a special branch of learning. However, he might have acquired such knowledge by practice, observation or careful study. The expert is not acting as a judge or jury.
- The real function of the expert is to put before the Court all the materials, together with reasons which induce him to come to the conclusion, so that the Court, although not an expert, may form its own judgment by its own observation of those materials.
- Another important thing to remember is that an expert is not a witness of fact (like other witnesses) and his evidence is really of an advisory character. The duty of the expert witness is to furnish the Judge with the necessary scientific criteria for testing the accuracy of the conclusions so as to enable the Judge to form his independent judgment by the application of these criteria. No expert can claim that he could be absolutely sure that his opinion was correct.
- In the case titled as State of Maharashtra v/s Damu s/o Gopinath Shinde and others, AIR 2000 SC 1691, it has been laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that without examining the expert as a witness in Court, no reliance can be placed on an opinion alone. Mere assertion without mentioning the data or basis is not evidence, even if it comes from an expert. Where the experts gives no real data in support of their opinion, the evidence even though admissible, may be excluded from consideration as affording no assistance in arriving at the correct value.
- However, it is a matter of common knowledge that so far as opinion of private experts is concerned, such like experts tends to lean in favor of the party calling them. In such like cases, when there is a conflict of opinion between the experts, then the Court is competent to form its own opinion with regard to signatures on a document or such like matters.
- However, the expert should confine his opinion only to the issue referred to him and not beyond that. In the case titled as Kabul Singh v/s Gurinder Singh, opinion of the expert was sought regarding signatures put on a document. However, the expert also gave opinion that certain digits were changed which opinion was not sought for. The Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana held that such an opinion should be ignored and that expert should have confined himself to the relevant facts.
- In-fact Section 48 of the Indian Evidence Act further opens up the scope of the Experts in recognizing customs and rituals. As per section 48, when the Court has to form an opinion as to the existence of any general custom or right, the opinions, as to the existence of any general custom, right, the opinions, as to the existence of such custom or right, of person who would be likely to know of its existence if it existed, are relevant. Thus, in such cases evidence of some expert in the field of earlier customs such as a Historian can also be given.
- At one time, the expert evidence was limited only to medical doctors, engineers, architects, stockbrokers etc. Now the science and technology have reached to such heights no more the expert evidence is confined to the above mentioned but also to the scientists in each field. As far as criminal law is concerned ballistic experts, forensic experts, scientists who decide the legitimacy by DNA tests, chemical examiners, psychiatrists, radiologists and even track-dogs are playing a vital role in investigation of crimes and their evidence is admissible in the court of law.
WHETHER THE OPINION OF EXPERT BINDING ON COURT
In the case titled as Malay Kumar Ganguly v/s Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has answered the question in negative. It has been held that a Court is not bound by the evidence of the experts which is to a large extent advisory in nature. The Courts have full powers to derive its own conclusion upon considering the opinion of the experts which may be adduced by both sides, cautiously, and upon taking into consideration the authorities on the point on which he deposes. It has been further emphasized that in the cases involving Medical Science complex questions are involved and therefore expert evidence is very assisting. However, the court for the purpose of arriving at a decision on the basis of the opinions of experts must take into consideration the difference between an ‘expert witness’ and an ‘ordinary witness’. The opinion must be based on a person having special skill or knowledge in medical science. The opinion could be admitted or denied. Whether such an evidence could be admitted or how much weight should be given thereto, lies within the domain of the Court. The evidence of an expert should, however, be interpreted like any other evidence.
From the above discussion it becomes apparently clear that mostly where a question of science or trade (where there often is some difficulty of obtaining more direct and positive evidence) that person of required skill on that subject (called experts), are allowed to give their opinions in evidence as well as testify to facts/details leading to that opinion. Usually the assistance/opinions of the experts is taken in the field of medicine which might be related to the time of death, age of the parties, cause of death, possibility of the weapons used, disease, injury, sanity and insanity of the parties so on and so forth. Now a days the DNA test is often used in fixing the paternity of the child in family law related cases such as maintenance and legitimacy of the child. It is in short, a general rule the opinion of a person who has special skill in that particular field shall be admissible in the Court of law. In certain cases to corroborate the already existing evidence the expert opinion is sought.