Evidentiary Value of E-Contracts

INTRODUCTION

An E-contract is also known as a digital contract that is written and signed electronically. A contract agreement between two or more parties that is legally enforceable. Commercial contracts with e-businesses can be exchanged with the use of e-contracts. An e-contract can be created on a computer and emailed to a business counsel. The digital signature of the business advocate specifies that he accepts the contract. An electronic contract is an agreement between two parties for the sale or supply of digital items and services. On an electronic contract, traditional ink signatures are not feasible; instead, a computer executes and enacts them in electronic form. The main aim of e-contracts is to negotiate and draft successful contracts for business purposes.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF ONLINE CONTRACT

  • Offer– The offer should be made by one party to another and should have a lawful purpose.
  • Acceptance– When the person to whom the offer was made accepts it, it becomes a promise.
  • Intention to create a legal relationship A contract that does not establish a legal relationship is not a legitimate contract; a contract that does not establish a legal relationship is not valid.
  • Lawful object– Parties entering into a contract should do so with a legal purpose in mind. To be legally enforceable, a contract must be made for a legal purpose.
  • Lawful consideration Consideration is one of the most important features of any contract. The basic concept of consideration is that if a party to a contract keeps his word, he will receive something in return. The form of consideration has to benefit, right, or profit.
  • The capacity of Parties– Parties who enter into a contract must be capable of doing so. It is necessary to be of sound mind and to have reached the age of majority.
  • Consent– Consent should be unrestricted, and the parties’ minds should meet. Consent must be genuine and unrestricted, and it cannot be obtained through deception, misrepresentation, or undue influence.
  • The Contract’s terms and conditions must be specific and not ambiguous.

E-CONTRACTS RECOGNITION

The Validity of E-contracts is emphasized in Section 10 of the Information Technology Act. To be valid, a contract must include the offeror offering for the proposal another person accepting the proposal, denial of the proposal, and acceptance, as valid, stated in electronic form via electronic channels. Such contracts cannot be declared void because electronic forms were working or for that purpose.

  • When electronic records are recognized and official to a contract when the electronic contract has been presented, conveyed, and acceptance has been received then Information Technology Act recognizes E-contracts as legal.
  • A Digital Signature Certificate is likewise legally legitimate and enforceable, according to the IT Act.
  • Indian Evidence Act of 1872- According to the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, a contract is legitimate if it contains any information in the form of an electronic record written on paper, stored and recorded in an optical created by computer.

EVIDENTIARY VALUE UNDER THE INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT

Electronic papers are recognized by Indian courts. The Indian Evidence Act of 1872, Section 65-A. The process for presenting evidence of electronic documents is governed by section 65-B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act states that any information that is contained in electronic records which are printed on paper, or a copy of that record which is created on magnetic media, is considered to be secondary evidence document if it meets the conditions in section 65B.

  • Section 85A– The assumption of electronic agreements includes this part. It says that once a digital signature is attached to an electronic record that represents the nature of an agreement, the document is regarded as finished. To ensure that e-contracts are authentic, Section 85A was enacted. The assumed value, however, has many limits. The presumption only applies to electronic recordings, electronic records older than five years, and electro records.
  • Section 85B– In the lack of evidence to the divergent, Section 85B provides that the court must assume that the record in question has not been tampered with in any way. The secure status of a record can be requested for a specific amount of time. 
  • Section 88B Any electronic message carried by the maker over an electronic media to the addressee to whom the message is to be sent is assumed to have been loaded into the computer for transmission.
  • Section 90A The court may assume that a digital signature was used to attest to the agreement’s legality if an electronic record is 5 years old and in proper care. A digital signature can be added to a document by anyone who has been permitted to do so. An exception can be made if the facts of a given instance indicate that the origin is likely.
  • Section 85 C– The court will assume that the information contained in a digital signature certificate is correct and true. The phrase “must suppose” relates to the court’s discretionary jurisdiction being expressly excluded.
  • Section 65B specifies that any information contained in an electronic record that is printed on paper and generated by a computer is considered a document.

In a country with a low literacy rate, such as India, the concept of ‘Digital India’ remains a long way off. People are still wary of making online purchases since the terms and conditions of such agreements are unclear. The type of law that governs electronic contracts is also vital to examine. Even though the Information Technology Act of 2000 legalized electronic contracts, it lacks particular rules. As a result, in terms of evidentiary value, we can claim that those electronic contracts are comparable to hard copy contracts. Because electronic contracts are legalized by the Information Technology Act, they are all valid contracts, and anyone who interrupts the terms and conditions may be held liable. Since then, many changes have been made in an attempt to gain conceptual clarity. The evidentiary value of an electronic record is determined by its quality. 

CASE LAWS

TRIMEX INTERNATIONALA FZE LTD. DUBAI VS VEDANTA ALUMINIUM LTD.

In this example, the parties communicated their offer and subsequent acceptance via email. The Supreme Court of India recognized the legitimacy of an electronic transaction and declared that if a contract is reached, a formal contract signed and initialled by the parties will not influence the contract’s implementation.

ARJUN PANDIT RAO VS KAILASH KUSHANRAO(JULY 2020)

The Supreme Court has ruled that when one enters into an electronic document as evidence, it is required compliance with Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act. The certificate filed underneath this clause contains information on the electronic records as well as the identification and authorized signature of the person with official responsibility for the management and operation of the relevant device.

CONCLUSION

It can be concluded that electronic contracts are as similar as hard copy contracts if we consider the evidentiary value of the contract. All e-contracts are valid contracts as they are governed by the Information Technology Act and can be made liable if there arises a case of infringement with the terms and conditions

ENDNOTES

  1. https://www.legalserviceindia.com/article/l127-E-Contracts.html
  2. https://blog.ipleaders.in/admissibility-evidentiary-value-electronic-records/
  3. https://www.mylawman.co.in/2012/10/evidenciary-value-of-e-contracts-now.html

This article is written by Vidushi Joshi student at UPES, Dehradun.

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