1. Section 74 of the Indian Evidence Act defines public documents:- Documents forming the act or records of sovereign authority namely Parliament, Legislative Assemblies, official bodies, tribunals, public officers or any part of India or of Commonwealth or foreign country.
Section 75 says that all other documents other than public documents are private documents.
2. Public documents are prepared by public servants while discharging their official or public duty.
Private documents are those documents which are prepared by a person in his private interest and right.
3. Public documents are available for inspection to public in public office during official time after prescribed fee.
The copy of judgement may be inspected by concerned parties of case.
Private documents are kept in the custody of the person to whom it belongs and it is not available for inspection to general public.
A person’s ID card, gift deed, passport are all private documents.
4. The secondary copy of public documents is to be admitted in judicial proceedings. As per section 65 (e) a certified copy of public document is admissible in court.
Before proving private documents one of the conditions laid down under section 65 is to be fulfilled else it cannot be admitted in judicial proceedings.
5. As a general rule, public document is proved by secondary evidence.
As a general rule private document is to be proved by original that is primary evidence.
6. Section 79 says the court is bound to presume the genuineness of public document from its certified secondary copy.
In private documents no presumption of genuineness of original from secondary evidence is made except in exceptional circumstances.
7. Some of examples of public documents are birth register, electoral roll, RTI reports, records of banks, chargesheet, deposition of witness, entry in Register of Power of attorney, notice under section 107 CrPC, record of information under section 145 CrPC.
Some examples of private documents are salary slips, unregistered will, registered sale deed, memorandum, documents kept by post and telegram office.
The CPIO, SC of India vs Subhash Chandra Agarwal 2009 SC
An application was made by a citizen seeking to know whether judges of Supreme Court and High Court were filing their assets declarations in accordance with 1997 resolution of Supreme Court.
This decision clarified and expanded the citizen’s right to information. The court held that all information available with the public authorities are covered by RTI Act, 2005 being public documents.
Fazal Sheikh and others v Abdul Rehman Mia 1990 Gujarat HC
In this case Gujarat High Court held that a private Waqf deed which is recorded in the office of sub-registrar is a public document.
Acts, order, notification of government → Records of department certified by HODs
Proceedings of the legislature → Journals, published acts, copies printed by order of garment
Program elation, orders, reserve regulation issued by Majesty or Privy Council → Copies in London Gazette, printed by Queen’s printer.
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