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Building a Responsible Cyber Society…Since 1998

Section 65B clarified… e-book

Posted by Vijayashankar Na on February 11, 2018
Posted in Cyber Law  | Tagged With: , , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one



Naavi has published a few e-books as detailed here

In order to update the e-books a supplementary e-book exclusively on Section 65B titled “Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act clarified” has been published as an “Add-On E Book” and is being provided along with the e-books Cyber Crimes & ITA 2008 and Cyber Laws for Engineers.

This book is also independently made available at rs 100/- on request.

Hope readers would find this  useful


Today, there was a misleading article published in Times of India titled “Mobile pics, videos may be allowed as evidence”. By implication it meant that so far it is not accepted as evidence.

The article says that there is a proposal to amend Indian Evidence Act or Criminal Procedure code to enable Video Recording, CCTV Footages and images captured through Cellular phones as evidence as if the current provisions donot have such a provision.

I hope there is no ignorant Government official who would believe this and jump to get an amendment done. 

The  article was credited to one Mr Rohn Dual, quotes a UP Police officer and  a criminal lawyer Mr Tanvir Mir.

From the body of the article it appears that the lawyer has given the correct opinion that such evidence is acceptable under Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act.  But in his bid to make the headline attractive, an ignorant journalist and/or a sub editor has implied that currently such video evidence is not acceptable and a change of law is required to make it acceptable. Apart from the ignorance of the journalist, I am surprised that a UP Police officer who is quoted also may not have the proper appreciation of the current provisions unless he has been misquoted.

This could be a mischievous article planted by some body who wants such an impression to be gobbled up by some ignorant Judge. 

It is therefore necessary to strongly refute the article and provide a clarification so that no Court is mislead into thinking that mobile data or CCTV footage is not currently acceptable as evidence.

It is sad that people write such articles without understanding that Information Technology Act 2000 was drafted as applicable to “Electronic Documents” in general and not with reference to any hardware called “Computer” so that it could be excluded for another device called “Mobile”.

It is possible that there could be some misunderstanding about mobile documents as to who should certify.

Without going into another detailed discussion, I would like to briefly state as follows:

1.Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act recognizes that a “Computer Output” as described in the section may be presented as “Also a document” representing the “Original” and is admissible as evidence without the production of the “Original” provided the certificate as required under the section is produced.

2. The “Computer Output” can be a print out or another soft copy.

3. The “Original” is the “first recording” of the “String of zeros and ones” which together constitute “evidence” which is sought to be produced as a statement under Section 17 of Indian Evidence Act and as per the special provision of Section 65A.

4. The “Original” “string of zeros and ones” does not have any meaning to a human being unless they are processed through a computing device which consists of an application riding on a software platform which itself runs on a hardware running on a “BIOS” like embedded software. The string of zeros and ones have meaning only to such a compatible computer system and not to a human being directly.

5. In view of this dependency of the “Original” on the computer systems before it is experienced as a Text” or “Audio” or a “Video” by a human being, Section 65B envisages that some human being should take the responsibility for first “Viewing” the “Original String of zeros and ones” and put it in a form in which the Judge can admit it as evidence. That certificate has to say that a certain process was used to view/experience the electronic data and that is the essence of Section 65B.

6. Current provisions of Section 65B is therefore essential and cannot be diluted. Mobile data whether it is an SMS or audio or video, can be therefore presented with an appropriate Sec 65B certificate.

7. The Certificate under Section 65B refers to the generation of the “Computer Output” and not to the generation of the “Original stream of zeros and ones” which constitute the “Original electronic record”.

8. It is not necessary for the mobile operator such as Jio or Airtel or Vodofone or Idea to provide the certificate. Any other contractually capable person who understands how to convert the electronic document residing inside the mobile (earlier referred to as the string of zeros and ones) to a print out or another softcopy can provide the certified copy.

9. If the person providing the certificate is a “Trusted Third Party”, it is better. But this is not a pre-condition. But the credibility and reliability of the Certifier is an important consideration for the Court to admit the evidence without further confirmation from another expert on which the Court has confidence.

10. Section 65B is for “Admissibility” of the document and it does not bar the defense to question the “Genuinity” of the evidence. Genuinity of the “Original” is whether such a document ever came into being or not in the first place. The Section 65B certification is simply that the document as is present in electronic form in its original state is now available in the form of a certified Computer output.

CCTV footages

The above clarifications also apply for CCTV footages.

In the CCTV, there is a continuous stream of video which is stored in the form of a media file. Just as a hard disk contains thousands of documents of which one or two is picked up as relevant evidence, in the CCTV footage also only relevant portions can be picked up and presented as separate electronic documents.

The defence however may question the “selection” from the point of view of whether it was meant to suppress information or mislead as to the meaning of the entire evidence. For example, in a recording of CCTV footage in say a shop where 100 customers have transacted, picking up the portion indicating the 45th customer walking in , transacting and going out and excluding everything else in the evidentiary copy is acceptable. But within a conversation which consists of 10 sentences, picking some sentences and deleting the rest should be avoided.

If however there is a conversation for 1 hour and some body would like to present only 5 minutes of the same, it can be admitted with the proviso that the defence may demand the presentation of the entire conversation and allege that some thing contrary to what is presented happened earlier or subsequently.

CCTV owners must remember that as soon as they come to know that a particular piece of information captured is a “Potential Evidence”, whatever is reasonably suspected to be associated with it such as the immediate earlier and immediate later recording with reference to an incident should be considered as plausible evidence and the entire stream/s should be securely archived. If they are deleted with the knowledge that they are “evidence” then the CCTV owner may be liable to be charged with Section 65 of ITA 2000/8 or other IPC.204.

If any of the readers have any further doubt as to the above, I request them to contact me for further clarification.


I recently received a query about whether there is any case law which supports my view that even when a original memory card or CD is presented to the Court, a section 65B certificate is required.

I would like to elaborate on this query and submit my views.

Case Law and its limitations in an emerging area of technology

I understand that most practicing advocates consider that  “Law Becomes a Law only when a Judge says so”. Hence the arguments in most cases except when it reaches the higher courts, is always on the case laws and not on interpretation of the law.

The Judicial interpretations are important in assigning meaning to the words contained in the written law but it can always be re-interpreted. A lower court’s interpretation can be re-interpreted by a higher court and a smaller bench interpretation can be re-interpreted by a larger bench.

Hence when we base our legal view only on the strength of some case law, we are on a temporary time period when a particular judgement is considered as a precedent.

True Experts on the other hand will/should ignore interpretations based solely on case law and will/should always argue with a fundamental interpretation with relation to the legislative intent and what is necessary to meet the objectives of the legislation.

Yes, this would be an “opinion” of a ” Deemed Expert” who may be not anybody who is  “Certified by any government or judicial authority” or by passing an “Examination” in a University. But nevertheless, it cannot be ignored as our experience in the past under Sec 65B interpretation has proved.

It takes years for the Courts at higher levels to consider a legal issue, mull it over under different circumstances and contexts, hearing arguments of all hue and description and arrive at a near consensus view on a matter of legal interpretation of a law text, when it can be considered as a “Case Law”. In the meantime we should not curb our creative interpretation of the law and fail to challenge the decisions of the Court even if it comes from the highest Court.

In the domain of Information Technology Act 2000 and to the current date, which includes the Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act , I have always followed this principle that we need to dig up the truth from the current law until it is changed and all of us including the Courts at the highest level are in the process of understanding the law and interpreting them.

Some may consider it as not respecting the tradition where the arguments of practicing advocates start and end with ” In so and so vs so and so, the honourable Supreme Court said so and so and there rests my case, my lord”.

Fortunately, not being a practicing advocate gives me the creative freedom to think differently and let the Judges accept my view if they can hear me out fully and with an open mind. No disrespect is meant here for any judicial authority nor any arrogance is intended. It is a belief that “God sees the Truth but waits”.

I consider that Cyber Jurisprudence in Information Technology Law and Section 65B is still developing and hence what I say is an input which needs to be considered as a “School of Thought”. I may differ in certain respects with other seemingly logical views of other practicing advocates more vocal than me and more active in the Judicial Academies or Legal seminars. But I would not budge from my considered view.

My Considered view in respect of whether a Section 65B certification is required for an electronic document is presented in the form of a original memory card or hard disk is presented is an emphatic yes.  The Court has to invite a person of its choice and ask him to view the electronic document and produce a Section 65B copy for the Court to appreciate.

Indian Philosophy shows us the way

The key to appreciate the above point is that an “Electronic Document that is a piece of evidence is not the memory card per se but the stream of binary data, the zeros and ones that are some where inside the memory card in the form of electric charge positive or negative”.

The memory card is the container or a box that contains the zeros and ones that when viewed in a special glass called a computer with appropriate hardware and software provides some human experience such as a sound or a readable document or a video.

The process of conversion of the stream of zeros and ones which is the “Original” evidence into a readable document or a hearable sound or a viewable video is dependent on a hardware-software combination such as a card reader, computer, operating system, monitor, speaker, audio processor, video processor, etc etc. Only when all these function properly in tandem the stream of zeros and ones become a humanly appreciable electronic document which the Judge considers as “Evidence”.

Therefore, while the original evidence such as memory card can be presented as a physical artefact that is an “evidence” and also admitted as an artefact, the question of who will view the binary content in that and say that it contains a letter written by X to Y or a photograph or an audio etc., remains.

If the Judge himself views the electronic document which is dependent on the system used, software used etc, then he becomes the person responsible under Section 65B to state that the computer which rendered the binary stream contained in the memory card rendered in a particular manner and will do so in future also in similar circumstances.

We can however say that the onus of providing the Section 65B certificate shifts from the person producing the memory card to the Court.

The fact that an electronic document residing in Yahoo Group server could be accepted as evidence based on a certificate produced locally by a private person like me was established in the Suhas Katti case in 2004 itself. There was no need for the “hard disk of yahoo group” to be produced in the Court. I suppose this is a universally accepted fact as of now that where there is a Section 65B certificate of a computer output, there is no need for the production of the original electronic document.

In the Basheer case one thing that I did not agree was a reference to the CD in which the offending speech or song was contained as a “Original”. This term has to be correctly defined. The terminology that should have been used here was the “First Container of the stream of electronic data elements that constitute the evidence in question” instead of the “Original CD”.

We should refrain from confusing between the “Stream of zeros and ones” which are “Binary impulses recorded for future reference and interpretation” in some form, and the container in which these are held together for the time being.

Imagine the situation where a laser computer screen is created in front of your eyes in free space where you see the information that you normally see on a computer monitor. The words are now floating in the air and there is no surface on which they seem to lie. This clearly establishes the fact that “binary stream” can exist and actually does exist independent of the “Container”.

Another easy way to understand this is in the concept of the “Soul” and the “Body” in Indian philosophy. Does soul exist independent of the body?.. Indian philosophy agrees that Soul exists independent of the body and that when a person dies, the soul leaves the body and ultimately finds another body in which its past life memories are in tact and if there is a right environment, the erased and reformatted memory of the soul in the past life can be rendered in the new body. The soul perhaps exists in this transitory state until it merges itself with the “Paramatma” which we call “Attaining Moksha” in some forms of philosophy.

Without going deeper into philosophy, we should conclude that

a) “Electronic Document means a stream of binary data arranged in such a manner that under appropriate rendition of the stream through a computer device, it produces the human experience of a readable document or an audio or a video.”

b) A memory card or a hard disk is a device which  holds the stream of binary data and makes it available to be used as a hardware which becomes part of the larger computer system that renders the human experience of a stream of binary data.

I have earlier referred to the Trisha Defamation Case in Chennai AMM Court where I was invited by the Magistrate in a similar circumstance when the CD was already in his hands and there was no need for an external party to certify it in ordinary prudence.

I appreciate the vision of the magistrate D. Arul Raj who correctly interpreted the law that he should not take the responsibility of writing in the judgement, “I viewed the contents of the CD which contained so and so information… which contravenes such and such law…etc”. He decided that he requires a third party to certify it and provide him a Section 65B certificate. In this case, I was the person called upon to do so.

Unfortunately This did not go into a judgement (as I understand) since the complainant later withdrew the complaint.

In my opinion, Cyber Jurisprudence does develop not only from the Judgements, but also from the views that emanate from the experts.

Remember that after Afsan Guru judgement in 2005,  many were quoting that I was not correct in maintaining that Section 65B certificate was mandatory for admissibility. But it took 9 more years of erroneous reading of the law to be upturned by the Basheer judgement in 2014.

In between I continued to hold my view and also argue with experts particularly in the national Police Academy who were listening to me on the one hand and also looking at the Afsan Guru judgement and spotted the discrepancy. Most other experts had not even observed this discrepancy and hence not raised the issue in any forum for a larger debate until the Basheer judgement reflected what I was saying all along.

Similarly, any of the views that I have expressed here may not be today the popular view or a view that is necessarily supported by a judgement. But I am confident that judgements will eventually follow what I have stated here.

May be there will be occasions when I will revise my view or the law itself may change. But presently my view is that

“Even when the original binary stream is presented in the container to the Court, the container has to be opened and the binary stream has to be interpreted with the assistance of hardware and software and hence it is necessary for the Judge to take the assistance of a Section 65B Certifier reliable to it.”

“It can be a Section 79A certified agency if available or other persons on whom the Court reposes confidence.”


International Commission of Jurists, Bangalore had organized a lecture on Digital Evidence and Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act at the Karnataka High Court on 8th December 2017.

Speaking on the occasion, Naavi highlighted the evolution of Section 65B as a law since 17th October 2000 when the ITA 2000 was notified till date. He also explained the nuances of Section 65B and why it is a very innovative legal provision that has added great strength to Indian Cyber Law.

In the process, Naavi recalled that the first “Section 65B certified evidence” was produced in a Court of law in the historic case of State of Tamil Nadu Vs  Suhas Katti in AMM, Egmore, Chennai in 2004. This case has been recognized as the first case of conviction in India under ITA 2000. However Naavi pointed out that this case was also historic from the point of view of Section 65B since the evidence presented in the case was a Section 65B certificate submitted by Naavi  dated  18th February 2004 in which content which was present as an electronic document on Yahoo Groups server was brought to the evidence and admitted. This was the critical evidence which evidenced the commission of the crime on which the accused was convicted under Section 67 of ITA 2000 besides Sections 469 and 509 of IPC.

Subsequently, it was only on 18th September 2014 that in the P.V.Anvar Vs P.K.Basheer case in the Supreme Court that the eminent judges led by Justice Kurien Joseph stated that Electronic Documents can be admitted as evidence only if they are accompanied by Section 65B Certificate. In the process, Supreme Court over ruled the earlier judgement in the Afsan Guru case which on 4th august 2005 had held that in certain circumstances electronic documents can be accepted without Section 65B certificate.

While it took 14 years for the larger community of Judges to highlight the importance of Section 65B, it should be recognized that Justice Arul Raj had created history by appreciating such an evidence and accepting it for the trial. At that time it required courage of conviction to accept a piece of paper submitted by a private person in Chennai as convincing evidence that a defamatory electronic document existed in the server of Yahoo in US.

The acceptance of Section 65B evidence was not the only point made out in this case. The defense raised a query if a private person like Vijayashankar could submit the Section 65B certificate and whether it was not necessary for a Government appointed person to submit it. Mr Arul Raj again came to the right conclusion that the section 65B does not restrict the submission of Section 65B certificate only to a Government authority.

The decision of Arul Raj in the Suhas Katti case was not just a flash in the pan or a decision prompted by the circumstances. Some time later in the same year, Mr Arul Raj took another decision related to Section 65B which again was a point that was touched upon by the Basheer case and requires to be highlighted now.

In this case, a case of defamation had been filed by actor Trisha on a Tamil publication which had published some photographs extracted from a video which was in circulation in the internet at that time. A series of screen shots had been printed in the magazine. Police had raided the office of the publication, seized a CD containing the video and filed the charge sheet stating that the content of the CD was printed in the magazine and hence the CD was a prime evidence for the case.

Justice Arul Raj at that time invited the undersigned to the Court and asked me to view the contents of the CD on the computer in the chamber and provide a Section 65B certified print out so that he could proceed with the trial on the basis of Section 65B certified copy.

The logic behind this decision to invite an external consultant to convert the contents of CD which was already on hand with the Court and which many could say was the “Primary” evidence, into a Section 65B certified print out, which many would say is the “Secondary” evidence was a master stroke of understanding of the principle of Section 65B.

I personally feel that Mr Arul Raj should be honoured specially for displaying a vision that though the “Primary” evidence is with the court, it cannot be appreciated by the Court without the assistance of a “Section 65B certified document”.

In the Basheer case a reference has been made that if the original CD in which the recording which formed the evidence for the case had been seized by the Police and presented, it could have perhaps constituted a  “Primary” evidence and non availability of Section 65B could have been condoned.

In many other cases also, we some times see that Courts ask the “Mobiles” containing the evidence to be presented as “Primary Evidence”. Hard disks are often presented as “Primary Evidence” for documents in a Computer.

Even assuming that the original binary impressions which first generated the electronic document which is the evidence in question is in the possession of the Court embedded within the container called the hard disk or a mobile, the Court cannot simply view the content itself and admit the evidence in to the proceedings. If any Judge proceeds to admit the evidence because he himself saw or heard the electronic document, then he is himself taking the responsibility to confirm that the electronic document which he saw or heard based on the computer, the operating system,the application and its configurations etc which all combined to render the binary data of the electronic document into a human intelligible experience was working properly etc., as envisaged in Section 65B.

It is therefore essential for the Court to involve an external person to produce a Section 65B Certificate before accepting the evidence into the proceedings.

Mr Arul Raj had realized this way back in 2004 and that is what I call as a visionary understanding of the challenges involved in appreciating digital evidence presented to a Court in its “Primary” form.

During the last several years, the undersigned has assumed credit for having been the person who first presented a Section 65B certificate in a Court. The Police officer who was involved in the case as an IO, namely Mr Balu Swaminathan (who was the ACP in charge of the Cyber Crime cell in Chennai at that time) has also been commended and recognized for being the first IO to get a conviction under ITA 2000.

But I feel that the magistrate Justice D Arul Raj has not perhaps been properly recognized for displaying his vision beyond the normal call of duty which brought in the conviction as well as the appreciation of electronic evidence in proper form.

Today, we are not aware where is Justice Arul Raj. But Naavi as a person and Naavi.org/ceac.in considers it our duty to record the contribution of D Arul Raj in the development of Cyber Jurisprudence in India and honour him with this article.

We wish that appropriate persons in Tamil Nadu, locate Mr Arul Raj and provide him the due honour that he deserves.

We urge my friends in Cyber Society of India and Prime Point Foundation in Chennai to take the lead in this regard.


More on Section 65B..from Madhya Pradesh..election petition

Posted by Vijayashankar Na on November 17, 2017
Posted in Cyber Law  | Tagged With: , , , | 4 Comments

In the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Jabalpur, (S.Tiwari Vs Arjun Ajay Singh) in an order dated 17th January 2017, regarding E.P. no 01/2014, an important confirmation of a process has been added to the Cyber Jurisprudence of Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act.

In this case, there was a video shot by sub contractors of Election commission during an election campaign which was handed over to the election commission. After the election, one of the parties has raised an election petition in which he has produced a copy of the CD obtained from the Election Commission as a “Certified Copy” and produced it in the Court. Initially, it was not having Section 65B certificate and the petitioner again approached the Election Commission, obtained another set and presented it to the Court.

However, the Court observed that the original document in this case was contained in the memory card (Ed: or the tape) of the Camera and this was first transferred to a CD when it was handed over to the Election commission and then this was again transferred by the Election Commission onto another CD and handed over to the petitioner.

The Court held that at each transfer point there has to be what it called a “Contemporaneous Certificate under Section 65B”. In this case the video grapher should have given the first certificate to EC and EC should have given the second certificate to the petitioner. Since this was not properly done, the Court refused to entertain the evidence.

The contention of the Court is on the right lines even though it may surprise many. The undersigned has been advocating it to some where necessary.

It is good that Courts have been deliberating on the issue of Section 65B certification in great detail and this will be discussed again and again in the days to come.