Tape Recorded Conversation – Admissibility, Nature and Value
The phenomenon of tendering tape-recorded conversation before law courts as evidence, particularly in cases arising under the Prevention of Corruption Act, where such conversation is recorded by sending the complainant with a recording device to the person demanding or offering bribe has almost become a common practice now. In civil cases also parties may rely upon tape records of relevant conversation to support their version. In such cases the court has to face various questions regarding admissibility, nature and evidentiary value of such a tape- recorded conversation. The Indian Evidence Act, prior to its being amended by the Information Technology Act, 2000, mainly dealt with evidence, which was in oral or documentary form. Nothing was there to point out about the admissibility, nature and evidentiary value of a conversation or statement recorded in an electro-magnetic device. Being confronted with the question of this nature and called upon to decide the same, the law courts in India as well as in England devised and developed principles so that such evidence, mat be received in law courts and acted upon.
The relationship between law and technology has not always been an easy one. However, the law has always yielded in favour of technology whenever it was found necessary. The concern of the law courts regarding utility and admissibility of tape-recorded conversation, from time to time found its manifestation in various pronouncement
. In India, the earliest case in which issue of admissibility of tape-recorded conversation came for consideration is Rupchand v. Mahabir Prasad, AIR 1956 Punjab 173. The court in this case though declined to treat tape-recorded conversation as writing within the meaning of section 3 (65) of the General Clauses Act but allowed the same to be used under section 155(3) of the Evidence Act as previous statement to shake the credit of witness. The Court held there is no rule of evidence, which prevents a party, who is endeavouring to shake the credit of a witness by use of former inconsistent statement, from deposing that while he was engaged in conversation with the witness, a tape recorder was in operation, or from producing the said tape recorder in support of the assertion that a certain statement was made in his presence.
In S. Pratap Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1964 SC 72 a five judges bench of Apex Court considered the issue and clearly propounded that tape recorded that tape recorded talks are admissible in evidence and simple fact that such type of evidence can be easily tampered which certainly could not be a ground to reject such evidence as inadmissible or refuse to consider it, because there are few documents and possibly no piece of evidence, which could not be tempered with. In this case the tape record of the conversation was admitted in evidence to corroborate the evidence of witnesses who had stated that such a conversation has taken place.
Conditions of Admissibility:
The tape recorded conversation can be erased with ease by subsequent recording and insertion could be superimposed. However, this factor would have a bearing on the weight to be attached to the evidence and not on its admissibility. Ultimately, if in a particular case, there is a well grounded suspicion not even say proof, that the tape recording has been tampered with that would be a good ground for the court to discount wholly its evidentiary value as in Pratap Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1964 SC 72. in the case of Ram Singh v. Col. Ram Singh, AIR 1986 SC 3, following conditions were pointed out by the Apex Court for admissibility of tape recorded conversation:
- a) the voice of the speaker must be duly identified by the maker of the record or by others who recognize his voice. Where the maker has denied the voice it will require very strict proof to determine whether or not it was really the voice of the speaker.
- b) The accuracy of the tape recorded statement has to be proved by the maker of the record by satisfactory evidence direct or circumstantial.
- c) Every possibility of tempering with or erasure of a part of a tape recorded statement must be ruled out otherwise it may render the said statement out of context and, therefore, inadmissible.
- d) The statement must be relevant according to the rules of Evidence Act.
- e) The recorded cassette must be carefully sealed and kept in safe or official custody.
- f) The voice of the speaker should be clearly audible and not lost or distorted by other sounds or disturbance.