The Judicial Discretion to Exclude Relevant Evidence: Perspectives from an Indian Evidence Act Jurisdiction
Stephen’s ground-breaking Indian Evidence Act contained ideas that appear unfamiliar in the context of modern rules of evidence. Singapore is an Indian Evidence Act jurisdiction which has retained those ideas, such as the non-distinction between relevance and admissibility, the framing of exclusionary rules in inclusionary terms, and the prohibition against relying on common law developments inconsistent with the Evidence Act. These peculiarities should have presented obstacles to the applicability of the common law concept of the judicial discretion to exclude relevant evidence, but this has not been the case. In this article, I first suggest why Singapore courts might have been attracted to the concept, but I then highlight fundamental uncertainties regarding the concept’s scope and normative justification. I proceed to propose an alternative paradigm for Singapore, namely using relevance and reliability as the only touchstones for admissibility of all evidence in criminal proceedings. The various advantages of this paradigm are also highlighted.