As we all know though the first Sec 65B certificate was produced to a Court way back in 2004, it was only after the P.K.Basheer case that the world of law enforcement has taken note of the law as was framed with effect from 17th October 2000. Subsequently, there is a rush to find out the correct form in which the certificate may be given.
I am aware that just as electronic documents were admitted and trials completed before Basheer judgement without Sec 65B certificate, now after the judgement, certificates not in the correct format are being accepted by Courts and trials are going on.
When I tried to quickly look around to see what is the format being used, I find that most advocates simply want to file an “Affidavit” stating that the “hard copies of documents presented are identical to the electronic document” etc.
Two samples of such affidavits one by the party in litigation and the other by the advocate are given below for reference.
Without meaning any disrespect to anybody who may be using such affidavits, I would like to state that this is not the correct form of producing the certificate.
I am sure I have explained in detail the Section 65B certification in many of the earlier articles all of which have been also collated in the articles link at www.ceac.in.
It is necessary for me to make just one additional point here on what I think will be the impact of the advocate submitting the certificate. As in the case of the certificate submitted by the litigant, this will also be a self serving evidence which will start on the back foot from the credibility point of view.
Apart from this, if an advocate stands in the shoes of the certifier, I think he would be a deemed witness in his own case.
The reason is that the object of the Sec 65B certification is to assist the Court in viewing the binary document readable by a computer device in a more human readable format and to freeze the document as was present at a point of time. Though at the admission stage, the certifier need not necessarily be also a witness on stand, if the certificate is challenged, he may have to stand as a witness and subject himself to a cross examination. At least in the case of the litigant he takes the stand as a plaintiff or a defendant and his views become part of the submission to the Court. But in the case of the advocate it would be an anomoly.
It is preferable therefore that a trusted third party submits the certificate and his credibility becomes part of the weightage given to the evidence.
Further by design, the above formats of affidavits can be used on an existing print out. But stamping an existing print out as “Section 65B certified” is not what is envisaged in the section.
I hope these teething troubles will be sorted out in time. However, in all sensitive cases where the evidence is critical, I strongly suggest that litigants and advocates donot take the risk of producing such “Affidavitized Section 65B Certificates” which may be challenged by the opposing parties either immediately during the trial or if necessary again on appeal.
P.S: Response to some queries on suggested format, I would like to state as follows:
One standard format fitting all requirements is not possible for Section 65B IEA. It depends on the type of electronic document to be certified.
The first document I certified was in 2004 in the case of Suhas Katti which was a Yahoo e-group message. There could be web pages, face book postings, e-mails, server logs, computer documents, WhatsApp Messages, encrypted blackberry messages, and even audio and video recordings, including CCTV footages. Each requires a different process to be converted into “Computer Output” under section 65B. Just like a Digital Signature, which includes both the person signign and the content he is signing, a Sec 65B certificate includes both the process and the assurances given by the certifier and hence it will be different on a case to case basis except perhaps one paragraph.
Hence kindly donot look for a standard format that can be used in all cases… naavi