Relevance Of Electronic Records: Characteristics And Importance Of Electronic Records

Relevance Of Electronic Records. One of the greatest and most revolutionary inventions of recent times has been the proliferation of computers and digitalization. As with other spheres of human life, cyberspace has not been free from dangers and crimes. This is because of the diversity in the content and information available, along with the ease of accessibility and wide reach.

Relevance Of Electronic Records

Relevance Of Electronic Records

However, with the proliferation of cyberspace, there has also been a tremendous increase in its misuse. The authenticity of e-documents has always been debatable, considering how easily prone they are to be tampered with. Investigation agencies are also repeatedly facing issues about the admissibility of such electronic evidence.

Since electronic evidence, as compared to conventional or traditional evidence, requires expert training in the field of cyberspace, the method used to investigate and assess the data maintained on or retrieved from electronic media for presentation in a court of law is of prime importance.

Relevance, Genuineness, Veracity, And Reliability Of Electronic Records

While the relevance of electronic records is specific to the facts and circumstances of each case, the genuineness, veracity, and reliability of digital evidence are some of the biggest challenges that have to be dealt with while adjudicating upon the admissibility of the electronic evidence. Therefore, it becomes important that the courts make sure that records were not manipulated, altered, or damaged, between the time they were actually created and put forward in court. Over some time, various courts have adjudicated on how different electronic media may be offered as evidence.

E-mail

Electronic mail or email is one of the most widely utilized electronic media for the transmission of information. With most formal interactions between people taking place through emails, such emails are allowed to be submitted as evidence upon filing a print-out of the emails.

The computer during this relevant period should be in the lawful control of the person proving the e-mail, and that information should be regularly fed into the computer in the ordinary course of the activities. Furthermore, it is also important to state that the computer had been operating properly and the contents printed on paper are taken from the information fed into the computer in the ordinary course of activities. Upon satisfying these criteria, emails can be read into evidence regarding the veracity of the contents of an electronic message.

SMS / instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp

In contrast to emails, which are usually utilized for official communications, the use of short messaging services or instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp are now common in both officials as well as unofficial communications. However, unlike the issue with traditional computers, a mobile phone being handy can be easily led in evidence. It is important to ensure that there is no dispute regarding the custody of the device or any alterations in the content.

Hard disk

A hard disk of a computer is the fundamental source of all the information. Therefore, while realizing its importance as electronic evidence, it has to be noted that as long as nothing at all is written onto a hard disk, and it is subjected to no change, it will be a mere electronic storage device like any other hardware of the computer.

However, once a hard disk is subjected to any change at all, then even if it is restored to the original position by reversing that change, the information concerning the two steps, the change, and its reversal will be stored in the subcutaneous memory of the hard disk and can be retrieved by using software designed for that reason. Therefore, a hard disk that is once written upon or subjected to any change is itself an electronic record even if it does not contain any accessible information at the moment.

Relevance Of Electronic Records

Call Records

Most investigations often begin from an analysis of the call records of the accused. Such call records are often useful as a starting point for also establishing conspiracy with others. While noting that call records are stored in huge servers which cannot be easily moved and produced in the court, print-outs taken from the computers/servers and certified by a responsible official of the service-providing company can be led in evidence through a witness who can identify the signatures of the certifying officer or otherwise speak of the facts based on his knowledge.

Tape Recordings

Often people record conversations with others to utilize the same evidence in trials. It is, however, important that the voice of the person alleged to be speaking is duly identified by the maker of the record or by others who know it. Additionally, the accuracy of what was recorded had to be proved by the maker of the record and satisfactory evidence, direct or circumstantial, has to be there to rule out possibilities of tampering with the record.

However, while dealing with a case of transcription of recorded conversations, it has been clarified that without the actual audio recording being made susceptible to analysis, no reliance can be put on transcriptions of audio recordings.

Photographs

In most cases, the digital camera is not produced before the court, and a party either takes recourse to a print-out or some other storage media such as CDs, USB Drives, etc. So, a person who was responsible for handling the digital camera and who also took a photograph and transferred it to the storage media needs to certify that how the print-out or storage was done. When the party tells that he took the photographs himself, got them developed, and filed them in the court, the non-filing of negatives cannot be a ground to reject them, especially when the photographs so relied upon are digital photographs.

Compact Disc (CD)

In a case where a CD is a copy obtained by the mechanical/electronic process of having the original tape-recorded conversation uploaded on a computer from the original electronic record and copied on the CD, it shall be constituted as secondary evidence and hence, be used only upon production of the original record of such taped conversation.

In the same way, in a case where there is no link between the CD and a memory chip that was said to have been the source for replication of data in CD. If the CD cannot stand the test of authenticity by its comparison with its hash value with source, then a transcript of what had been obtained through its audio footage shall be of no value.

Statement of Account

The print-out of an entry in the book of an account should ensure the accuracy of such a print-out. Any objection as to the person exhibiting the said statements of account, for example, an objection to the mode of proof and not admission, has to be taken at the time of exhibition of the documents.

Interestingly, a print-out of the statement of account, duly certified by a responsible official of the bank, has also been recognized as reliable proof to lead such statements into evidence. It has been further clarified that because the print-out is being filed as secondary evidence along with the necessary certificate, it does not make it any less valid. In the case of bank statements, the certificate given by the authorized representative of the bank is sufficient and supports the statement of account relied upon by banks.

Final Thoughts

Electronic Document and Records Management Systems (EDRMS) are computer-based systems that store various types of electronic documents and files. Documents/files created by a variety of programs, including Microsoft Office applications, Adobe applications, e-mail, video files, audio files, and many others, can be stored on these systems. Many organizations have begun scanning paper documents to store them electronically, and an EDRMS provides the ability to save these documents in a secure, searchable, user-friendly location that can manage the document’s lifecycle automatically (retention).

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