Distinction between relevancy and admissibility

Prakhar Maheshwari, West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences

Editor’s note:

In laws of evidence, relevant facts could depict any set of closely interrelated facts, to the extent that they rely on each other to establish an event. These facts make the event more or less likely than it would be in their absence. They are logically probative. If relevant facts are the genus, admissible facts are the specie. All relevant facts may not be admissible (they may be ruled out due to prejudice, paucity of time, confusion) but all admissible facts are relevant. While relevancy is based on logic, admissibility only relies on lawful pertinence, i.e., whether a fact can be permitted in court on the basis of the Evidence Act. A fact could appear sensibly pertinent, however may not be admissible in court. For example, police confessions, hearsay statements, privileged communications, etc are relevant, but not admissible. They are barred by positive rules of law, determined by the statute and the court’s interpretation of the same. Naturally, relevancy must be established before admissibility can be dealt with. For the sake of brevity, courts only let in the facts which have a high degree of probative value, affording clarity to the case.


The word relevant means any two realities to which it is connected are so identified with one another that, as stated by, the regular course of occasions, one, either taken without anyone else present or in association with different actualities, demonstrates or renders in the cards the past, present or future presence or on presence of the other. A truth in issue is a vital part of a right or risk; in light of the fact that from such certainty, either without anyone else present or in association with other reality, the presence or non-presence of a right or obligation fundamentally accompanies. An important reality then again is not an essential element of a right or obligation. An actuality in issue is known as the ‘rule truth’ or factum probandum and the applicable reality the ‘evidentiary certainty’ or factum probans. Where immediate proof concerning a truth in issue is not accessible, it may be demonstrated by conditional confirmation; and in such a case each spot of fortuitous proof might be an occurrence of an “applicable” reality. In an instance of homicide, in the event that it be demonstrated against the charged that he had the intention to slaughter the perished, that he had the chance and made arrangements to murder, that instantly after the expired was killed the blamed was seen fleeing from the spot of homicide with a sword under control, that his garments and the sword were both stained with blood, and that, presently a while later, he hid the blood stained dress, and the sword, the certainty of his being the killer is demonstrated as decisively as by the affirmation of the persons of irreproachable credit who may have really seen him submitting homicide. Yet none of these actualities is vital component of the risk to be hanged; as the law does not require, as a state of point of reference, evidence of any of the realities specified above to rebuff the man with death. None of these realities, in this way, is a reality of issue; yet every one of them are “significant” since they bear the cost of great material for the surmising that the truth in issue did happen, in particular the blamed killed the expired.[i]

Relevant Evidence

“Relevant Evidence is evidence that makes a fact more or less likely to be true than it would be without the evidence (looking for probative value). Relevant evidence may be excluded for unfair prejudice, confusion, or waste of time. Relevant evidence is generally admissible and irrelevant evidence is never admissible. Two leading principles on relevance: 1) that nothing is to be received which is not logically probative of some matter requiring to be proved; and 2) that everything which is thus probative should come in, unless a clear ground of policy or law excludes it. Relevancy exists as a relation between an item of evidence and a proposition sought to be proved.”[ii]

In an American case of Knapp v. State, the rule of law stated by the court was that “the determination of the relevancy of a particular item of evidence rests on whether proof of that evidence would reasonably tend to help resolve the primary issue at trial.”[iii]

Logical Relevance vs. Legal Relevance

“A reality which is sensibly applicable may not be lawfully pertinent under the procurements of the Evidence Act, thus might be forbidden in proof. All allowable confirmation is pertinent, yet all applicable proof is not so much permissible. All certainties which are permitted by the procurements of the Evidence Act to be demonstrated are important; be that as it may, however pertinent a certainty may be, unless it is permitted to be demonstrated by the procurements of the Evidence Act, it is not allowable.

A fact is said to be logically relevant to another when it bears such a causal relation with the other as to render probable the existence or non-existence of the latter. As stated above, all facts which are logically relevant are not legally relevant. One fact is said to be legally relevant to another, only when the one is connected with the other in any of the ways referred to in Ss. 5 to 55 of the Evidence Act.

Logical relevancy is wider than legal relevancy; every fact which is legally relevant is logically relevant, but every fact which is logically relevant is not necessarily legally relevant. Thus, a confession made to a police officer may appear to be logically relevant, but such a confession is not legally relevant, for S. 25 of the Act declares that it cannot be used as evidence against the person making it.

The Indian Evidence Act lays down, in Ss. 5-55, what facts are relevant; but the mere fact of logical relevancy does not ensure the admissibility of a fact. Very often, public considerations of fairness and the practical necessity for reaching speedy decisions necessarily cause the rejection of much of the evidence which may be logically relevant.

Thus, all evidence that is admissible is relevant, but all that is relevant is not necessarily admissible. Relevancy is the genus of which admissibility is a species. Thus, oral statements which are hearsay may be relevant, but not being direct evidence, are not admissible.

Legal relevancy is, for the most part, based upon logical relevancy, but it is not correct to say that all that is logically relevant is necessarily legally relevant and vice versa. Certain classes of facts which, in ordinary life, are relied upon as logically relevant are rejected by law as legally irrelevant. Cases of exclusion of logically relevant facts by positive rules of law are:

(i) Exclusion of oral by documentary evidence: Ss. 91-99.

(ii) Exclusion of evidence of facts by estoppel: Ss. 115-117.

(iii) Exclusion of privileged communications, such as confidential communications with a legal adviser, communication during marriage, official communications, etc.: Ss. 121-130”[iv]


Admissibility means that the facts which are relevant are only admissible by the Court.

According to section 136 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, however, the final discretion on the admissibility of evidence lies with the judge. Section 136 states that:

“When either party proposes to give evidence of any fact, the Judge may ask the party proposing to give the evidence in what manner the alleged fact, if proved, would be relevant; and the Judge shall admit the evidence if he thinks that the fact, if proved, would be relevant, and not otherwise. If the fact proposed to be proved is one of which evidence is admissible only upon proof of some other fact, such last- mentioned fact must be proved before evidence is given of the fact first- mentioned, unless the party undertakes to give proof of such fact, and the Court is satisfied with such undertaking. If the relevancy of one alleged fact depends upon another alleged fact being first proved, the Judge may, in his discretion, either permit evidence of the first fact to be given before the second fact is proved, or require evidence to be given of the second fact before evidence is given of the first fact.”[v]

“The essential ingredients of the above section are:

  1. It is the judge who decides the questions of relevancy and admissibility.

  2. When a party proposes to adduce evidence of any fact, the judge may ask the party to clarify ‘in what manner’ the fact would be relevant.

  • The judge would ‘admit’ the particular adduced fact only if he is satisfied with the answer of the party that it is, indeed, relevant under one or the other provisions of S. 6 to 55. Thus the consideration of relevancy comes first and of admissibility later and the judge will admit the fact only if it is relevant.”[vi]

In the recent case of Ram Bihari Yadav v. State of Bihar[vii], the Supreme Court observed that “More often the expressions ‘relevancy and admissibility’ are used as synonyms but their legal implications are distinct and different from for more often than not facts which are relevant are not admissible; so also facts which are admissible may not be relevant, for example questions permitted to put in cross examination to test the veracity or impeach the credit of witnesses, though not relevant are admissible. The probative value of the evidence is the weight to be given to it which has to be judged having regards to the fact and circumstances of each case.”

Section 9 of the Law of Evidence Act, 1872, lays down some facts which can be treated as relevant. In the case of Lakshmandas Chaganlal Bhatia v. State[viii], the court laid down the following to be “relevant facts:

  1. Facts necessary to explain or introduce a fact in issue or relevant fact;

  2. Facts which support or rebut an inference suggested by a fact in issue or a relevant fact;

  3. Facts which establish the identity of anything or person whose identity is relevant;

  4. Facts which fix the time and place at which any fact in issue or relevant fact happened;

  5. Facts which show the relation of parties by whom any fact in issue or relevant fact was transacted.”[ix]

Another section of the Evidence Act which deals with admissibility is the Section 11. Section 11 deals with those facts which are not otherwise relevant but become relevant if they are inconsistent with any relevant fact or they make the existence or non-existence of any relevant fact highly probably or improbable.[x]

In Sheikh Ketab-Uddin v. Nagarchand Pattak[xi], it was held, that where the executants of an archive holding presentations of boundaries of land are alive and don’t give their evidence, such archives are not acceptable under this segment.[xii]

In Ambikacharan v. Kumuk Mohan[xiii], Cummin and Mukherji held that as a general rule, S.11 is controlled by S.32, “when the evidence consists of statement of persons who are dead and the test whether such a statement is relevant under S.11, though not relevant and admissible under S.32, is that it is admissible under S.11, when it is altogether immaterial whether what said was true or false, but highly material that it was said.”[xiv]

In the case of Bibi Khaver v. Bibi Rukha[xv] the  court held that “in order that a collateral fact may be admissible as relevant under this section, the requirements of the law are that:

  1. The collateral fact must itself be established by normally conclusive evidence; and

  2. It must, when established, afford a reasonable presumption or inference as to the matter in dispute.”[xvi]

However, there are limitations to Section 11. According to R. v. Prabhudas[xvii], “the court must use exercise a sound discretion and see that the connection between the fact to be proved and the fact sought to be given under S.11 to prove it, must be so immediate as to render the co-existence of the two highly probable. The section makes admissible only those facts which are of great weight in bringing the court to a conclusion one way or the other as regards the existence or the non-existence of the fact in question. The admissibility under this section must, in each case, depend on how near is the connection of the facts sought to be proved with facts in issue and to what degree do they render facts in issue probable or improbable when taken with the other facts in case. There must always be room for the exercise of discretion when the relevancy of the testimony rests upon its effect towards making the affirmative or negative of a proposition ‘highly probable’, and, with any reasonable use of the directions, the court ought not to interfere.”[xviii]

Another limitation mentioned in the case Bela Rani v. Mahabir[xix] is that “s.11 is also controlled by ss.17 to 39. And as to the admissibility of depositions made by a person since deceased, it has been held that unless they are admissible under ss.32 and 33, s.11 will not avail to make them evidence.”[xx]


“In this project, we dealt with the terms logically relevant and legally relevant. To summarize: logically relevant: the dictionary meaning of the term ‘relevancy’ is given as ‘the relation of something to the matter at hand’, ‘pertinence’, ‘connection’, ‘materiality’ etc. If one fact is connected to the other logically, it is called logical relevancy and it may be based on several factors. For instance if a severed dead body is found on a railway track, it can be inferred that the death occurred because of the train running over the person. On a closer observation, it is found that there is no hemorrhage near the body, the first inference is then replaced by another inference that the person was killed elsewhere and the dead body was thrown on the railway track to create the misleading impression that he was run over by the train. Here the inferences are drawn on the basis of logic based on cause and effect. If two or more persons have committed the offence at the same time and place, it can be inferred that they were acting with common intention.

Legal relevance: while logical relevance is certainly an important factor in determining the probative value of facts, it so happens that the facts may be connected to each other by varying degrees of logical proximity and immediate causes and effects, and remote, indirect and even conjectural causes and effects. Hence, the courts should let in only those facts which have a high degree of probative value that would help the courts to decide one way or the other with relatively greater certainty.

Consequently, the Evidence Act adopted the device of declaring as relevant in section 6 to 55 only those logically connected facts which are considered to have a high probative value. Thus, facts which may be connected to each other so remotely that they cannot be considered to have high probative value are kept outside the purview of the provisions of ss. 6 to 55. Facts legally relevant under the Evidence Act means, simply, facts declared to be relevant under section 6 to 55 and this is part of the legislative and not judicial determination.”[xxi]

Hence, all logically relevant facts are not legally relevant and all legally relevant facts may not be logically relevant.

Edited by Neerja Gurnani


[i] M.Monir, Law of Evidence (15th, Universal Law Publishing, New Delhi 2010) 115.

[ii] Cook, ‘Evidence Outline’ (wcl.american.edu ) <http://www.wcl.american.edu/sba/outline_databank/outlines/Evidence_Cook_1.pdf> accessed 11 March 14.

[iii] Knapp v. State [1907] 522 US 1069.

[iv] E. Jain, ‘Difference between ‘Relevancy’ and ‘Admissibility’ under the Indian Evidence Act’ (shareyouressays.com 2005) <http://www.shareyouressays.com/119210/difference-between-relevancy-and-admissibility-under-the-indian-evidence-act> accessed 11 March 14.

[v] Law of Evidence 1872 s 136.

[vi] Dr. V. N. Rao, The Indian Evidence Act (1st, LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa, Haryana 2012)  41.

[vii] Ram Bihari Yadav v. State of Bihar [1998] AIR 1859 (SC).

[viii] Lakshmandas Chaganlal Bhatia v. State [1968] 69 AIR 807 (Bom).

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Law of Evidence 1872 s 11(1, 2).

[xi] Sheikh Ketab-Uddin v. Nagarchand Pattak [1927] AIR 230 (Cal).

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Ambikacharan v. Kumuk Mohan [1928] AIR 893 (Cal).

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Bibi Khaver v. Bibi Rukha [1904] 6 AIR 983 (BLR).

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] R. v. Prabhudas [1874] 11 AIR 90 (BHCR)

[xviii] N14.

[xix] Bela Rani v. Mahabir [1912] 34 AIR 341 (SC).

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Dr. V. N. Rao, The Indian Evidence Act (1st, LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa, Haryana 2012) 40, 41.

3 thoughts on “Distinction between relevancy and admissibility”

Leave a Comment


There are ten ways to read more.And one of them is to subscribe to our newsletter. Yes! A bit of reading never hurts.

Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime :)

There are ten ways to read more.And one of them is to subscribe to our newsletter. Yes! A bit of reading never hurts.

Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime :)

Lawctopus Law School
Lawctopus Law School