Section 34 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Illustration:

A sues  for Rs. 1,000, and shows entries in his account-books showing  to be indebted to him to this amount. The entries are relevant, but are not sufficient, without other evidence, to prove the debt.

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Comments:

Scope:

Sections 32 and 33 provide for relevancy of statements made by a person who is deed or cannot be called before the court. Section 34 on the other hand, provides that entries in books of account including those maintained in an electronic form regularly kept in the course of business, by a person, alive or dead, are relevant, whenever they refer to a matter into which the court has to enquire. This section is an exception to the Section 21 of this Act which provides that a person cannot make evidence for himself. The rules are:

1. When books of account including books in electronic form regularly kept in course of business.

2. Entries kept in such books are relevant only relating to matter in issue.

3. Such entries alone is not sufficient to charge a person with liability.

Where, for example, A sues  for Rs. 1000, and shows entries in his account books showing  to be indebted to him to this amount. The entries are relevant, but are not sufficient without other evidence to prove the debt. Entries in account books regularly kept in the course of business are admissible though they by themselves cannot create any liability.

Principle:

As per this section the entries in books of account are relevant, but it is not sufficient to charge any person with liability unless some independent evidence is given. The evidentiary value of such entries of account books depends on corroboration by some other evidence in spite of the entries are regularly kept and mentioned by the writer “who has full knowledge, no motive to falsehood, and there is the strongest improbability of untruth.” The original entries alone under sec. 34 would not be sufficient to charge any person with liability.

In other words, the entries supported by corroborative evidence are no doubt relevant, but the corroborative evidence must have minimum probative value. It is that evidence of only corroborative nature. This corroborating evidence may be in any form like receipts, vouchers, bills or even oral evidence of witnesses having personal knowledge of the affairs of the transactions. “The principle is to admit only such statements recorded by a party in his own behalf as by their nature and circumstances are ordinarily beyond his power to temper with undiscovered, to the purposes of a particular case.”

Books of Accounts:

The term ‘book’ ordinarily means a collection of sheets of paper bound together in one volume with the intention that such binding shall be permanent record. Unbound sheets of paper are not books of account and cannot be relied upon. But two spiral notebooks and two spiral pads are regarded as books but not loose sheets contained in the two files.

It would not be correct to say that an entry must necessarily be made in the book of accounts at or about time the related transaction takes place so as to enable the book, to pass the test of “regularly kept.” Under the Bankers Books Evidence Act 1891 the Bankers books include ledgers, day books, cash books, accounts books and other records used in the ordinary business of the bank whether those books are in written form or are kept an micro film, magnetic tape or any other form mechanical, or electronic data retrieval mechanism.

Account book regularly kept:

The books of account regularly kept in the course of business, though relevant, are not alone sufficient to charge any person with liability. It is normal that account-book kept in the regular course of business of tradesman is merely a compilation of all the details of his dealings from day to day and is practically a summary of such transactions written up in bills, vouchers, anamath chits etc. “The words ‘regularly kept’ are not synonymous with ‘correctly kept’ in accordance with certain fixed method or form referring to system of book-keeping.” The Privy Council has laid down that “the admissibility of books of account regularly kept in the course of business is not restricted to book in which ‘entries have been made from day to day or from hour to hour, as transactions have taken place.

The time of making the entries may affect the value of them but should not, if they have been made regularly in the course of business afterwards made them irrelevant.” It is true that no particular form is prescribed for an account book to be maintained, but it should be regular and usual account book. Even the plaintiff’s own testimony on oath in support of the entries in his books of account can be treated sufficient corroborative and to faster the defendant with liability.

Charge a person with liability:

Where the entries in books of account is regularly kept in course of business though relevant are corroborative evidence and mere production and proof of an entry is not by itself sufficient to charge a person with liability. There must be some independence evidence to prove the transaction. Where the principal amount of claim is disputed Bank has to prove the liability by adducing independent evidence and mere production of book entries will not suffice.

The corroboration is the best effort to prove the transaction by which a person may be charged with liability. Certified copies of statement of account under section 4 of the Bankers’ Books Evidence Act corroborated by affidavit of a person are sufficient to charge debtor with liability.

Evidentiary value of Books of accounts:

Where accounts books were maintained properly and regularly, its veracity could not be doubted on the ground that the day books supporting ledger entries and that the person who made said entries in ledger books were not produced. The statement of appellant showing that accounts were maintained by his father till 1959 and thereafter by him for every year separately were submitted to the Income Tax Department. The said facts were not challenged in cross-examination. In the said ledger for each year there is entry regarding receipts of rent in question. The statement of appellant was upheld by trial court and appellate court. It was held that books were maintained properly and regularly and it veracity cannot be doubtful.