The Supreme Court has reiterated that expert evidence should not be given precedence over substantive evidence.
In this case [Chennadi Jalapathi Reddy vs. Baddam Pratapa Reddy (Dead)], the disputed signature of the first defendant was identified by his brother as those of the first defendant himself. However, another defence witness, a handwriting expert, deposed that the admitted signatures of the first defendant and the disputed signature do not tally, and that it s forged. The trial court refused to rely on expert evidence and decreed the suit of specific performance filed by the plaintiff, while the High Court did rely on it, and dismissed the suit.
In appeal filed by the plaintiff, the bench comprising Justice NV Ramana, Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Justice Ajay Rastogi observed that the Court must be cautious while evaluating expert evidence, which is a weak type of evidence and not substantive in nature
it may not be safe to solely rely upon such evidence, and the Court may seek independent and reliable corroboration in the facts of a given case. Generally, mere expert evidence as to a fact is not regarded as conclusive proof of it.
The court said that, in this case, the testimony of DW3 can safely be relied upon, and must be accorded similar, if not greater, weight than the expert evidence adduced by the defendants to advance their case. It said:
The weight to be accorded to such an opinion depends on the extent of familiarity shown by the witness with the disputed handwriting. This, in turn, depends on the frequency with which the witness has had occasion to notice and observe the handwriting, his own power of observation, and how recent such observations were.
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