–Gaurav Bhawnani and Aditya Mehta
The Right to Information Act, 2005 (‘RTI Act’) is frequently used in civil and criminal litigation to obtain government documents. However, the RTI Act is silent about the admissibility and proof of such documents in a trial. High Courts across the country have interpreted the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and handed down conflicting decisions in this regard. Through an examination of these decisions and a reading of the provisions relating to documentary evidence, we argue that copies of public documents obtained under the RTI Act should be treated as certified copies of public documents and directly be admitted in evidence. Similarly, response letters from RTI officials are primary evidence of public documents and should similarly be admitted without any corroborating oral evidence. While there might be concerns that this approach might violate the rule against multiple hearsay evidence, such fears are unwarranted. This the approach would not only be correct in law, but would also avoid unnecessary delays in an extremely overburdened judicial system.