Use of Documents under RTI as Evidence in Courts

Certified copies can be obtained under RTI Act

Right to Information Act (RTI Act) provides for supply of certified copies of documents and records kept by public authorities in India.

The “right to information” defined u/s 2 (j) of the RTI Act, says that it “means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to—

(i) inspection of work, documents, records;

(ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;

(iii) taking certified samples of material;

(iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device.”

Courts are ambivalent in use of such copies under RTI Act

But no provision in RTI Act specifically speaks about the use of such certified copies as evidence in the proceedings in courts.

Therefore some high courts say that the RTI documents can directly be read in evidence, but some other courts say that they are inadmissible as such, or to prove them in evidence after examining the witness concerned.

Two kinds of documents are obtainable under RTI

The RTI Act mainly provides two kinds of documents: one is certified copies of public documents, and the other is certified copies of data or records of the public authorities given on queries sought by people.

The copies obtained under the RTI Act are considered certified copies as per the definition provided in the Black Law Dictionary, which states that a certified copy is a copy of a document signed and certified as a true copy by the officer to whose custody the original is entrusted.

The term certified is used in the definition as an attribute meaning to being officially attested or authoritatively confirmed as being genuine or true as represented, or complying or meeting specified requirements or standards.

To prove public documents no witness, need to be examined

To prove a document in the court, it is generally essential to prove the authorship of the document and the authenticity of its contents.

As per Section 77 of the IEA, certified copies of public documents, coming under Section 74 and 78 of the IEA, can be produced directly as evidence of the contents of public documents without the need to summon any witnesses and examining the author of the document. The Section 77 of the IEA obviates the production of original with a certified copy.

The public documents include records of evidence in judicial proceedings, Gazettes, newspapers, Acts of Parliament, and such other documents listed u/s 74 & 78 of the IEA.

Therefore, there is no need to examine the government official who authored the document as the certified copy is sufficient proof of the authorship of the original.

Therefore, the certified copies of public documents received under the RTI Act should be directly admissible in evidence without the cumbersome process of having to call upon the concerned PIO.

No need to examine the author u/s 35 of IEA

In the case of copies of entries made in books of account, public or official books or registers, by the Public Servant, the author of such entries need not be examined, as per Section 35 of the IEA. The Section 35 of the IEA deals with relevance of such documents and not their mode of proof.

Any such entry or record made by a public servant, or any other official, in the discharge of his duty may be proved by any official who can show that the records were maintained in the ordinary course of official duty.

That means entries in official books kept by public servants, making the record under the law in force, are relevant and hence admissible in evidence. But there is no presumption as to the correctness of the entries.

The term Public Servant is defined in Section 211 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC). A Head Master in a Government School is a Public Servant whereas the one in a Private School is not. Hence the entries of birth of a student issued by both the Head Master would be treated differently while proving. The former does not need to testify in the court whereas the latter needs to testify.

Therefore, the fact contained in the copies of the public document, which is relevant under Section 35 of IEA, need to be proved by the production of a certified copy, under Section 77 of the IEA and the private documents must be proved by examining the author of the document as witness in the court.

RTI documents are secondary evidence u/s 63(2) IEA

The xerox copies/photocopies of documents received under the RTI Act fall squarely within the definition of secondary evidence, u/s 63(2) of the IEA. Such documents can be proved in the manner prescribed under Section 65(a) to (d) of the IEA.

The certified copies made from and compared with the original, u/s section 63(3) of the IEA fall within the Section 65 (f) of the IEA as secondary evidence.

To prove as secondary evidence prove the foundational facts

Before a party can introduce the document received under the RTI Act as secondary evidence, she would be required to prove certain foundational facts: she would have to show to the court that the original document cannot be produced because it has been lost or destroyed or is in the possession of an adverse party.

The party would, thus, have to produce a witness or prove otherwise to testify to this effect.

The PIO to be examined to read the copy in evidence

To prove the documents other than the copies of public documents, received as a reply to the RTI application, the concerned the Public Information Officer (PIO) needs to be examined.

The PIO would have to identify his signature and testify that the document is a copy, made by a mechanical process, of the original. Only after the examination of the witnesses, the document can be read in evidence

RTI documents are secondary evidence u/s 63(1) r/w S.76

The Section 63(1) of IEA defines secondary evidence as certified copies given under the provisions of the IEA.

Similarly, the Section 76 of the IEA defines certified copies as copies of those public documents in the custody of a public officer which a private citizen has a right to inspect, given along with a certificate that the same is a true copy. The certificate must carry the name, signature, and seal of the officer issuing the copy.

The two requirements under Section 76 to treat a copy as certified copy are: first, a person must have a right to inspect a document; and secondly, there must be a certificate stating that the document procured is a true copy along with the details of the officer involved.

The Section 63(1) when read with Section 76 of the IEA, it can be concluded that the certified copies obtained under RTI act can be treated as certified copies and they can be proved as secondary evidence under the IEA.

HCs treat RTI copies as certified copies

The AP High Court in Datti Kameswari v. Singam Rao Sarath Chandra case found that if a document is obtained under the Right to Information Act from a competent Authority, it can be asked to be taken as a certified copy if the original of which is a public document.

The high court held that

  1. production and marking of a certified copy as secondary evidence of a public document under Section 65(e) need not be preceded by laying of any foundation for acceptance of secondary evidence, but
  2. production and marking of a certified copy as secondary evidence of a private document (either a registered document like a sale deed or any unregistered document) is permissible only after laying the foundation for acceptance of secondary evidence under Section 65(a), (b) or (c) of the IEA, but production and marking of an original or certified copy of a document does not dispense with the need for proof of execution of the document which has to be proved in a manner known to law under Section 67 and 68 of the IEA.
  3. However, the true copies of public documents certified by the designated Information Officer can be taken as certified copies of the public documents, u/s 65 (f) of the IEA.

In Narayan Singh v Kallaram @ Kalluram Kushwah, the Madhya Pradesh High Court says that the Section 65 (f) of the IEA makes it crystal clear that a certified copy permitted under the IEA or by any other law in force can be treated as secondary evidence. The court further held that since the documents are covered under Section 65 of the Evidence Act as secondary evidence, there was no need to compare the same with the originals.

The court adds that the phrase “by any other law in force in India” includes RTI Act and the definition of “right to information” under RTI Act makes it clear that certified copies of documents are given to the citizens under their right to obtain information and that the copies of documents, provided either as true copies or as attested copies, can be admitted as secondary evidence.

Certified copies presumed as genuine u/s 79 & 114

For certified copies there is presumption of genuineness under Section 79 which is a rebuttable one.

Similarly, the presumption under Section 114(e) that an official act here, the issuance of the RTI, is performed regularly and correctly is rebuttable. If the adverse party has any challenge on the authenticity of the documents or of the documents being received under the RTI Act, the PIO can be summoned to rebut this presumption if required. Certified copies of public documents received in reply to RTI applications must, thus, be read directly in evidence.

Regarding the second common kind of document – the response letters from PIOs, often containing answers or data as the information is procured from the state in the official manner defined by the state, it should also be allowed to be used in evidence.


In short, the Section 65 (f) of the IEA allows certified copies permitted under the IEA or by any other law in force in India to be treated as secondary evidence. The RTI Act falls within the ambit of “any other law in force in India.”

Therefore, the certified copies obtained through the RTI Act can be treated as secondary evidence and can be admitted in court and they can be presumed to be true, unlike a private document.

Additional reading

  1. The Right to Information Act, 2005
  2. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872