Hearsay Evidence


Hearsay is an out-of-court statement, made by someone apart from the witness testifying at trial. If a statement is hearsay, the statement is inadmissible as evidence. It is just reported by the witness and regarded to be very weak evidence or it refers to something that others have said or heard. Such evidence is usually rejected as they’re considered to be irrelevant. These types of evidence are inadmissible because the witness has neither personally seen nor heard. The witness has not perceived the evidence through his senses but has come to grasp it through some other person.

The prohibition on hearsay relies on certain principles:

  • Statements made out of court aren’t made under oath and thus cannot be given the same weight as statements made under oath;
  • An out-of-court statement that’s being repeated can’t be tested in cross-examination. Its accuracy, therefore, can’t be evaluated;
  • There is a prospect of fabrication, exaggeration, distortion, or inaccuracy;
  • Hearsay evidence isn’t what’s called the simplest evidence. The ‘best evidence’ rule is important that evidence should tend by the person best capable of giving it. If person C has evidence to supply that’s relevant to a proceeding, under the only evidence rule, person C should be called as a witness to supply that evidence.


Since there’s a definite downside of inaccuracies, misinformation, and fabrication present in the testimony provided by the person, 

  • the person giving such evidence doesn’t hold any sense of responsibility. 
  • There’s also the possibility of dilution of the truth with each repetition. 
  • There’s ample scope for playing fraud under the cover of being heard from another person. [1]

Therefore, the common rule in regards to this form of evidence is that it’s not admissible in proof of a fact that has been stated by a third person. Regardless, it still harbors several exceptions. 

How Courts Avoid Hearing Hearsay Evidence-

  • Oral Evidence- Counsel who questions the witnesses during the examination-in-chief or cross-examination tries to avoid questions that bring about hearsay statements in reply. If a witness starts to provide evidence that amounts to inadmissible hearsay, the opposite party will object to the evidence and therefore the lawyer would be directed to alter the course of their questioning.
  • Documents- Contents in the document can be inadmissible hearsay evidence. It’s common for the parties to object to the document being tendered in court if the author of the document has not been made available for cross-examination. This happens because the statement which is there within the document amounts to hearsay unless the author is present there within the court for adopting the contents of the document and have their evidence tested through cross-examination. In case if the documents contain hearsay evidence and are admissible then the court may direct the party seeking to tender it out to the hearsay passages.
  • Police Witnesses- It is common for people that give evidence regularly and are conversant in the rule of hearsay, like police, to offer their evidence in an artificial way so that they can avoid falling foul of the hearsay rule. We often heard police witnesses saying things like ‘We spoke to the victim and she or he told us certain things’. Police do that therefore the court can get an outline of what the police officer’s involvement during a matter has been, without having to affect statements that fall under the category of inadmissible hearsay.

Out of Court Statements- 

Admissions which are made out of the court are admissible under Section 81 of the Evidence Act, 1872. However, it is given under Section 84 that an admission made out of court isn’t admissible if it had been induced by threats, violence, or other oppressive or degrading conduct. Therefore if an accused tells police that he committed an offense after being properly cautioned and with no pressure being exerted on him to form an admission, the police officer can give evidence of these admissions. But if admission is formed to police in response to threats or other pressure, this evidence is going to be excluded. A Private individual can also give evidence for admissions voluntarily made to them.

Exceptions to Hearsay Rule-

The hearsay rule has many exceptions. These exceptions allow for the admission of hearsay when the circumstances make that hearsay sufficiently reliable. A couple of the acknowledged exceptions are:

  • Business or official records- Courts often allow statements from business and official (or public) records because the sources are reliable. An example is a computer log of all licensed gun holders in a county.
  • Dying declarations- Statements by people who care about biting the dust are often admissible. The theory is that the speaker obviously can’t be called a witness and that people aren’t likely to lie with their last breath. 

It has been observed that “the rule against the admission of hearsay evidence is fundamental” [2]. Furthermore, the Indian Evidence Act, under chapter IV regulating oral evidence, stipulates, “Oral evidence must, in all cases, whatever, be direct”. [3]

Therefore it’s clear that the person contrary to hearsay must have personally seen or heard the fact in question. However, this cannot by any stretch of the imagination be extended to mean that direct evidence of hearsay evidence would be admissible as a circumstance to establish a fact [4] however there are a few cases that are the exceptions to this rule and admissible in a Court of law.

The main exceptions are as follows:

  • Res Gestae
  • Admission and Confession
  • Dying Declaration
  • Evidence given in the formal proceedings

Case Laws-

In Balram Prasad Agrawal vs The State Of Bihar & Ors. [5], a young married woman (Kiran Devi), who is daughter of the appellant, who is alleged to have been murdered by the respondent or to have been forced to commit suicide by falling in a well situated on the backside of the house of the accused. It was said that the information obtained from their neighbors was completely hearsay evidence, however, the respondents were convicted on the basis of hearsay evidence.

It was said that the evidence of the statements made to a witness who isn’t himself called as a witness may or might not be hearsay, but there are two possible situations, that it is hearsay and inadmissible when the thing of the evidence is to determine the reality of what’s contained within the statement or it is not hearsay and is admissible when it’s proposed to determine by the evidence, not the reality of the statement but the very fact that it had been made. The fact that the statement was made quite aside from its truth has relevancy in considering the psychological state and conduct of the witness or an individual in whose presence these statements were made.

In Kalyan Kumar Gogoi v. Ashutosh Agnihotri & Anr. [6], while elaborating on the concept of hearsay, the court observed that “The term hearsay is used with reference to what is done or written as well as to what’s spoken and in its legal sense, it denotes that sort of evidence which doesn’t derive its value solely from the credit given to the witness himself, but which rests also, in part, on the veracity and competence of another person.”

In Rabindra Nath Thakur v. Union of India & Ors. [7] (Patna High Court), it has also been held by the Privy Council that, “Evidence of a statement made to a witness by a person who is not himself called as a witness may or may not be hearsay. It is hearsay and inadmissible when the thing of the evidence is to determine the reality of what’s contained within the statement.”
Furthermore, it is pertinent to note here that it would constitute admissible when the establishment of the fact isn’t proposed to be done by the mere truth of the statement but also by the evidence or the fact that it was made [8]. Hence, the term, ‘hearsay’ is not mentioned anywhere in the IEA so as to escape ambiguity and inaccuracy in the particular statute. And this particular form of evidence is inadmissible under the Indian Statute; except for a few exceptions defined in the IEA.


[1] Vepa P. Sarathi, Law of Evidence 18-19 (Abhinandan Malik ed., Eastern Book Company 2017) (1961).

[2] Teper V. Queen [1952] A.C. 980.

[3] Indian Evidence Act § 60 (1872).

[4]Surender V. State ILR (2009) VI Delhi 549.

[5] (1996).

[6] (2011) 2 SCC 532.

[7] (1998) 3 PLJR 495.

[8] Subramaniam v. Public Prosecutor, (1956) 1 WLR 965.


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