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Fingerprinting in India

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  • 1. 1 Amity Law School, NOIDA Name of Author: Kunal Basu Student Name: KUNAL BASU Enrolment no.: A3256113116 Semester: II Programme: LLB (BLL 205) Probative Value of Fingerprint Evidence
  • 2. 2 Acknowledgement I would like to thank Prof. Neha Srivastava of Amity Law School for her assistance and guidance with this paper. Her mentorship was paramount in providing a well-rounded experience consistent with my long-term career goals. Her guidelines encouraged me to not only grow as an experimentalist but also as an independent thinker. I would like to thank Amity Law School, especially others members of my faculty for their input, valuable discussions and accessibility. Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank my parents, Shantanu & Jia, for their support, encouragement, quiet patience and unwavering love that were undeniably the bedrock upon which my career aspiration and ambition rest.
  • 3. 3 Preface This paper attempts to provide a brief analysis of the evolution and probative value of fingerprint evidence. Introducing the concept of fingerprinting, this paper takes the reader through the definition of a finger print to the typology of fingerprinting and the methods and processes of fingerprinting. Fingerprinting as a science is also given its historical background with India occupying the pride of place as the pioneer in this field. I also attempt to define the probative value of fingerprint evidence and relate it to the law on this subject in India. The global application of laws by courts abroad and in India is illustrated through the medium of several court orders, particularly in India. The conservative interpretation of the Indian judiciary of fingerprint evidence is brought into the limelight. I have also cited two important cases upon which the Indian judiciary accepted the probative value of fingerprint evidence and relied in accepting/denying charges made out against offenders on the basis of fingerprints, including the role of the NCRB (with select cases). Finally, and in conclusion, I have given some major technical limitations of fingerprinting evidence while also stated the moves underway to create national crime record databases and profiling of India’s population via UIDAI and NPR. The paper closes with a warning on the twin issue of ethics and privacy in fingerprinting and the emergence of DNA fingerprinting as the preferred scientifically holistic method of evidence.
  • 4. 4 Certificate Student Agreement 1. I hereby certify that, if appropriate, I have obtained and attached hereto a written permission statement from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted material to be included in my thesis, dissertation, or professional paper, allowing distribution as specified below. 2. I certify that the version I submitted is the same as the final copy approved by my advisory committee. 3. I hereby grant to Amity University and its agents the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible my thesis, dissertation or professional paper in whole or in part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. I retain all other ownership rights to the copyright of the thesis, dissertation, or professional paper. I also retain the right to use in future works (such as articles or books) all or part of the thesis, dissertation or professional paper. Student and Committee Agreement Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide – Y/N Release the entire work for Amity University, NOIDA, access only – Y/N No access for a period of one year (extendable by one year increment by contacting the Amity Law School). Start Date: Feb 17, 2014End Date: Feb 16, 2019 Review and Acceptance: The aforementioned document has been reviewed and approved to meet the thesis, dissertation, and professional paper requirement by the student’s supervisory committee. The undersigned agree to abide by the statements above, and confirm that this Approval Form serves as the Certificate of Approval for the thesis, dissertation, or professional paper including the Preface. Author's Name (Use full legal name): KUNAL BASU Student ID: A3256113116 Semester & Year of Graduation: VI/2016 Degree Type: LLB (3 year) Major & Option(If applicable): NA Document Type: .docx Name of Department: Amity Law School, NOIDA Thesis, Dissertation or Professional Paper Title: Fingerprint Evidence Keywords or phrases concerning subject of document (separated by commas): Fingerprinting evidence, fingerprinting history, India, courts, typology of forensic science, methods & processes of fingerprinting, National Crime Records Bureau _______________ Feb 17, 2014 Student Signature Date ____________________________ ____________________________ Faculty Signature & Date Director, Amity Law School, NOIDA
  • 5. 5 Contents Acknowledgement ........................................................................................................................................2 Preface ..........................................................................................................................................................3 Certificate......................................................................................................................................................4 Table of Cases...............................................................................................................................................6 Chapters ........................................................................................................................................................7 Introduction...................................................................................................................................................8 Typology of Forensic Science.......................................................................................................................8 What is a finger print?...................................................................................................................................9 Methods & Processes of Fingerprinting......................................................................................................11 Why are fingerprints important?.................................................................................................................12 History of Fingerprinting............................................................................................................................12 Ancient World.........................................................................................................................................12 India ........................................................................................................................................................13 Japan .......................................................................................................................................................13 United Kingdom......................................................................................................................................13 Argentina ................................................................................................................................................14 France......................................................................................................................................................14 Canada ....................................................................................................................................................14 USA ........................................................................................................................................................14 What is Probative Value of Evidence? .......................................................................................................15 Law regulating Fingerprint Evidence in India ............................................................................................16 Courts on Finger Print Evidence.................................................................................................................17 Indian Courts on the Probative Value of Finger Print Evidence................................................................19 Some Important Cases ............................................................................................................................22 G. Alavandar vs Unknown......................................................................................................................22 Himachal Pradesh Administration v. Om Prakash.................................................................................22 Achievements of National Crime Records Bureau.....................................................................................22 Limitations of Finger Print Evidence in India ............................................................................................23 Conclusion ..................................................................................................................................................24 Bibliography……………………………………………………………………………………………….24
  • 6. 6 Table of Cases Jalaluddin v. Emperor, 13 Cr.L.J.563 State vs. Kathikalu, AIR 1961 SC 1808 United States Shipping Board v. The Ship 'St Albans', AIR 1931, Privy Council 189 Chitaman Dissil v. M.Lakshman, ILR Bom 101 State of MP v. Sitaram Gajraj Singh, Raipur MPLJ 197 (201): Cr.L.J. 1220 (1223) Mohan Lal v. Ajit Singh, AIR 1978 S.C. 1183 Jaspal Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1979 SC 1708 1979 Cr.L.J. 1386 Govinda Reddy v. State of Mysore, AIR 1958 Mys. 177, Cr.L.J. 1489 Chauthl v. State, 1978 Cr.L.J. (NOC) 122 All. Bhaluka Behara and others v. State, AIR 1957 Orissa 172 Public Prosecutor vs Kandasami Thevan, AIR 1923 Mad 178 Kuppusamy Gounder and Anr v. Palaniappan, 2012 1 MLJ 449 Drojan Singh v. State, CRL.A. 408/2007 Rama Nathan v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR 1978 SC 1204 State of Karnataka v. MN Ram Das, 2002 7 SCC 639 Musheer Khan & Badshah Khan & others v. State of MP, AIR 2010 SC 762 State of Maharashtra v. Anil, 2006 Cr.L.J. (NOC) 288 (Bom) Baso Prasad v. State of Bihar, 2006 13 SCC 65 Hatendra Nath Sen v Emperor, AIR 1931 Cal 441 Bazari Hajam v. King Emperor, AIR 1922 Pat.73 :23 Cr. L.J 638 Public Prosecutor v Kandasami Thevan, AIR 1927 Mad. 696 :27 Cr. L. J 1251 G. Alavandar v. Unknown, AIR 1957 Mad 427
  • 7. 7 Chapters Chapter Title 1 Introduction 2 Typology of Forensic Science 3 What is a finger print? 4 Methods & Processes of Fingerprinting 5 Why are fingerprints important? 6 History of Fingerprinting 7 What is Probative Value of Evidence? 8 Law regulating Fingerprint Evidence in India 9 Courts on Finger Print Evidence 10 Indian Courts on the Probative Value of Finger Print Evidence 11 Achievements of National Crime Records Bureau 12 Limitations of Finger Print Evidence in India 13 Conclusion Bibliography
  • 8. 8 Introduction The collection of forensic evidence and the application of forensic sciences have become essential to criminal investigations and prosecutions. Forensic evidence fulfills several roles in criminal investigations (Fisher, 2004i ):  Prove a crime has been committed or establish key elements of a crime;  Place the suspect in contact with the victim or with the crime scene;  Establish the identity of persons associated with a crime;  Exonerate the innocent;  Corroborate a victim‘s testimony;  Assist in establishing the facts of what occurred; Police personnel devote many hours to the collection and analysis of forensic evidence, starting with the crime scene and continuing through the entire investigation. Prosecutors prefer cases where forensic evidence proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Courts have made physical evidence more important through decisions that limit the authority of police reliance on statements and confessions by defendants. Typology of Forensic Science Several forensic authorities (Fisher, 2004ii ; Gardner, 2004iii ; Lee, Palmbach, & Miller, 2004; Ragle, 2002) have developed typologies for forensic evidence. These typologies cover the variety of forensic evidence collected at crime scenes: fingerprints, impression evidence, hair, fiber, firearms, biological evidence, drug evidence, and entomological evidence. Based on Fisher (2004iv ) and Lee, Palmbach, & Miller (2004v ) the following classification framework may be derived: Biological Evidence: The two most common types of biological evidence are blood and saliva. Blood evidence comes in the form of wet blood (e.g., a tube of blood from an autopsy) or swabs of bloodstains collected at crime scenes. Buccal swabs are the most common way of collecting saliva evidence, usually from a victim or suspect. Other types of biological evidence include seminal stains, urine, and perspiration. In each case, the aim is to provide sufficient samples of biological evidence to allow DNA profiling.
  • 9. 9 Weapons Evidence: Weapons evidence consists of firearms (handguns, rifles, assault weapons, etc.), ammunition (e.g., spent casings, fired projectiles, bullet fragments, and unfired bullets), gunshot residue (GSR) tests, and knives. Fingerprint Evidence: Fingerprint evidence will be divided into complete 10- prints (fingerprints are available for both hands and palms as in the case of fingerprinting a victim or suspect) and latent prints (only partial prints of one or more fingers are available, usually through a powdering technique on physical evidence such as a weapon or vehicle). Drug Evidence: Drug evidence includes drugs (e.g., marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and others), and drug paraphernalia (pipes, spoons, etc.) found at a scene. Impressions Evidence: Impressions evidence includes shoeprint impressions, tyre tracks, and tool marks. Trace Evidence: Trace evidence is a generic term for small, sometimes microscopic, material. It covers a wide variety of evidence, including fibers, hair, building materials (asbestos, paint, etc.), cigarettes, tobacco, glass, and others. Natural/Synthetic Materials: Natural and synthetic materials include clothing, bed and bath material, carpet cuttings, metal objects, plastic, and paper. Generic Objects: Generic objects include vehicles, bicycles, containers, doors, wood, and concrete. Electronic/Printed Data: Electronic and printed data include documents and electronics (computers, cell phones, etc.). Other Items: Other items are a catchall category for evidence that does not fit in any of the above categories. What is a finger print? Skin is one of the largest organs of the body. It is recognized as an organ because it consists of several types of tissues that function together. In addition, it includes millions of sensory receptors and an extensive vascular network. The skin is a protective, pliable covering of the body, one that is continuously replaced. The Integumentary System includes the skin and the epidermal derivatives of hair, nails and glands. Every human being has friction ridges located on
  • 10. 10 the hands and feet. These friction ridges have a specific detail on the gripping surfaces with an enhanced quantity of nerves and pores. These tiny raised peaks and valleys are located on the tips of the fingers along with sweat pores. This gripping skin has been described as similar to the tread of an automobile tire. The friction skin has a structured dermis layer with the friction layer of skin that includes the sweat pores. There are extra pores that remain moist and help the skin to remain soft and pliable, which presents better frictional characteristics of the print. There are approximately 2,700 ridge "units" per square inch of friction skin. Each ridge "unit" corresponds to one primary epidermal ridge (glandular fold) formed directly beneath each pore openingvi . Fingerprints play an extremely important role in crime scene investigations. Fingerprints are of three types (Palmiotto, 1994vii )  Plastic fingerprints occur when the finger touches or presses against a plastic material in such a way that a negative impression of the friction ridge is produced. These types of prints are generally found in places like a newly painted object, wax from candles or sealants, in the gum on envelopes and stamps, on substances that melt easily or soften when they are held in the hand. An example of this would be chocolate. Plastic prints and prints that are impacted on an object are easily detected since they are visible to the naked eye  Prints which are contaminated with foreign matter usually containing dust occur when fingers are pressed in a thin layer of dust and some dust sticks on the friction ridges. When the finger touches something else, a print is identifiable.  Latent fingerprints result from small amounts of grease, sweat, and dirt being deposited on the object touched from every detail in the friction ridge pattern at the tip of the finger. Latent prints are developed using a variety of methods. One is the dusting of powders over the prints. Another method is using iodine since this discolors the print. Lasers may also be used to detect latent prints. The laser light has been discovered to produce florescent fingerprints which can be photographedviii . A fingerprint examiner, wearing safety goggles containing optical filters, examines the specimen being
  • 11. 11 exposed to laser light. The filter absorbs the laser light and permits the wavelengths at which latent print residues fluoresce to pass through to the eyes of the wearerix . Some forensic crime labs use image processing, in which latent prints are examined by a video camera and a signal is fed into a computer which processes the imagex . Methods & Processes of Fingerprinting The typical fingerprint may have as many as 150 ridge characteristics. The ridge characteristics of the finger are formed where the epidermis (the outer portion of the skin) and dermis (the inner skin) meet. Perspiration, salts and skin oil on the fingertips combine to leave a pattern on any surface where the skin touches (Kaci, 1995xi ). In the past, individual prints were compared to prints on file by fingerprint examiners. New technology enables computers to do this work. Computers are able to scan and digitally encode fingerprints so that they can be subject to highspeed computer processing. Automated fingerprint identification uses automatic scanning devices that convert the image of a fingerprint into digital minutuae (the ridge characteristics) that contains data showing ridges at their points of termination (ridge endings) and the branching of ridges into two ridges (bifurcations) (Saferstein, 1995xii ). The scanning converts the spatial relationship of a fingerprint's ridge endings and ridge bifurcations called minutiae points into a digitized representation of the fingerprints (Bureau of Justice Statisticsxiii ). The process of automated fingerprinting works by scanning and storing fingerprints digitally in a computer's memory. The computer then creates a spatial map of the unique ridge patterns of the prints and translates this spatial relationship into a binary code for the computerxiv . As new fingerprints are scanned into the computer, the computer searches for any identical prints and updates the system. This enables law enforcement agencies to identify criminals more quickly and also have access to a large data base with information on fingerprints. This alone has greatly enhanced the efficiency of the criminal justice system and also increased the conviction rate for offenders.
  • 12. 12 Why are fingerprints important? Fingerprints are considered to be an infallible means of identification. No two fingerprints are exactly alike. In Jalaluddin v. Emperorxv their Lordships said, "It is reasonable deduction from experience that no two human beings have the same thumb markings......" In crime scene evidence recovery, it is essential that fingerprints be located, processed, and recovered first. In the 20th century, the high profile case such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy benefited from this procedure; a palm print was discovered underneath the stock of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle that belonged to Lee Harvey Oswald. In another high profile case, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the crime lab made an important discovery of latent fingerprints on the rifle found to belong to James Earl Ray. Fingerprint technology may be used for:  apprehension and conviction of criminals  to prove innocence for individuals unjustly accused of crimes  identification of individuals  employment or licensing applications. History of Fingerprintingxvi Ancient World Fingerprints were used on clay tablets for business transactions in ancient Babylon in c. 1000-2000 B.C. Thumbprints begin to be used on clay seals in China to “sign” documents in c. 3rd century BCE. During the T’ang Dynasty, a time when imperial China was one of the most powerful and wealthy regions of the world, fingerprints are reportedly used on official documents, c. 610-907 AD. A petroglyph that dates back to the first century AD, located on a cliff face in Nova Scotia depicts a hand with exaggerated ridges and finger whorls, presumably left by the Mi'kmaq people. Many official government documents in Persia have fingerprint impressions dating to c. 14th century AD. One government physician observed that no two fingerprints were an exact match. In 1686, at the University of Bologna in Italy, a professor of anatomy named Marcello Malpighi noted the common characteristics of spirals, loops and ridges in fingerprints, using the newly invented microscope for his studies. In time, a 1.88mm thick layer of skin, the “Malpighi layer,” was named after him. Although Malpighi was likely the first to document types of fingerprints, the value of fingerprints as identification tools was never
  • 13. 13 mentioned in his writings. A thesis published in 1823 by Johannes Evengelista Purkinje, professor of anatomy with the University of Breslau, Prussia, details a full nine different fingerprint patterns. Still, like Malpighi, no mention was made of fingerprints as an individual identification method. Indiaxvii India was perhaps one of the earliest nations to adopt finger printing as a crime establishing tool. In 1858, the Chief Magistrate of the Hooghly district in Jungipoor, India, Sir William Herschelxviii , first used fingerprints to “sign” contracts with native Indians. As the locals felt more bound to a contract through this personal contactxix , Herschel adopted the practice permanently. Later, only the prints of the right index and middle fingers were required on contracts. In time, after viewing a number of fingerprints, Herschel noticed that no two prints were exactly alike, and he observed that even in widespread use, the fingerprints could be used for personal identification purposes. In 1896, British official Sir Edward Richard Henry in Bengal, instituted a fingerprinting program for all prisoners. He also developed a system of his own, which included 1,024 primary classifications. Within a year, the Governor General signed a resolution directing that fingerprinting was to be the official method of identifying criminals in British India. Japanxx In 1880 Dr. Henry Faulds, a British surgeon and Superintendent of Tsukiji Hospital in Tokyo, discussed fingerprints as a means of personal identification, and the use of printers ink as a method for obtaining such fingerprints. Faulds had begun his study of what he called “skin- furrows” during the 1870s after looking at fingerprints on pieces of old clay pottery. He is also credited with the first fingerprint identification: a greasy print left by a laboratory worker on a bottle of alcohol. United Kingdomxxi In 1888 Sir Francis Galton began his study of fingerprints primarily to develop a tool for determining genetic history and hereditary traits. Galton became the first to provide scientific evidence that no two fingerprints are exactly the same, and that prints remain the same
  • 14. 14 throughout a person’s lifetime. He calculated that the odds of finding two identical fingerprints were 1 in 64 billion. In 1892 - Galton’s book “Fingerprints” was published, the first of its kind, which detailed the first classification system for fingerprints; he identified three types (loop, whorl, and arch) of characteristics for fingerprints (also known as minutia). These characteristics are to an extent still in use today, often referred to as Galton’s Details. In 1901 the “Henry Fingerprint Classification System” in India paved the way for founding Scotland Yard's Central Fingerprint Bureau. Argentinaxxii In 1892, Juan Vucetich, an Argentine police official, made history when he made the first criminal fingerprint identification. Vucetich eventually developed his own system of classification, and published a book entitled Dactiloscopía Comparada ("Comparative Fingerprinting") in 1904, detailing the Vucetich system, still the most used system in Latin America. Francexxiii In 1902, Alphonse Bertillon, director of the Bureau of Identification of the Paris Police, was responsible for the first criminal identification of a fingerprint without a known suspect. A print taken from the scene of a homicide was compared against the criminal fingerprints already on file, and a match was made, marking another milestone in law enforcement technology. Canadaxxiv In 1911, the first central storage location for fingerprints in North America is established in Ottawa by Edward Foster of the Dominion Police Force. The repository is maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and while it originally held only 2000 sets of fingerprints, today the number is over 2 million. USAxxv In 1882 Gilbert Thompson, employed by the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico, used his own fingerprints on a document to guard against forgery. This was the first known use
  • 15. 15 of fingerprints for identification in America. “Life on the Mississippi,” a novel by Mark Twain published in 1883, tells the story of a murderer who is identified by the use of fingerprints. His later book "Pudd'n Head Wilson” includes a courtroom drama involving fingerprint identification. In 1902, the New York Civil Service Commission, led by Dr. Henry P. DeForrest, instituted testing of the first systematic use of fingerprints in the United States. In 1903, the New York Police Department, the New York State Prison system and the Federal Bureau of Prisons began working with the new science. In 1904, the St. Louis Police Department and the Leavenworth State Penitentiary in Kansas started utilizing fingerprinting, assisted by a Sergeant from Scotland Yard who had been guarding the British Display at the St. Louis Exposition. In 1905, The US Army joined the fingerprinting bandwagon, and within three years was followed by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. In 1924, US Congress established the Identification Division of the FBI. By 1946, the F.B.I. had processed 100 million fingerprint cards; that doubled by 1971. From 1924 to the 1990s - AFIS, or Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems, began widespread use around the country. This computerized system of storing and cross-referencing criminal fingerprint records would eventually become capable of searching millions of fingerprint files in minutes, revolutionizing law enforcement efforts. What is Probative Value of Evidence? Cornell University defines probative value of evidence as the ability of a piece of evidence to make a relevant disputed point more or less true. It cites the following example: In a trial of a defendant for murder, the defendant's dispute with his neighbor (unrelated to the crime) has a no probative value because it provides no relevant information to the trier of the fact. However, if the defendant's dispute was with the victim, this has a much higher probative value as it could be a motive for the murderxxvi . In law, evidence has probative value if it is sufficiently useful to prove something in a trial (Gardner, 2004xxvii ). Thus, testimonial evidence (i.e., testimony by a witness under oath) that is not probative is immaterial and not admissible or will be stricken from the record by defense‘s objections. Similarly, the analysis of forensic evidence must be relevant to have probative value;
  • 16. 16 it must establish evidentiary facts to be beneficial. Relevant evidence is any evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence. Relevancy is the sum of two different concepts, viz. materiality and probativeness. Materiality relates to whether the evidence is offered upon a matter properly in issue, “…of consequence to the determination of the action…” Probativeness implies that evidence must logically tend to prove the proposition for which it is offered. The evidence must not make the proposition substantially more likely than not but only somewhat more likely than not. The evidence must tend to prove or to disprove any proposition and may either be direct or circumstantial. Evidence may be excluded it its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, irrelevance, delay, etc. Law regulating Fingerprint Evidence in India Under S. 3 of identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, the SHOs and investigating officers are empowered to take the finger prints of every person who has been convicted of any offence punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term of one year or upwards or of any offence which render him liable to enhanced punishment on a subsequent conviction. Every person ordered to give security of his good behavior under section 118 Cr PC shall, if so required, allow his measurements (including finger prints) and photographs to be taken by a Police Officer in the prescribed manner. Under Section 4 of Identification of Prisoners Act 1920 the SHOs and investigating officers are empowered to take the finger prints of non-convicted persons who have been arrested in connection with an offence punishable with RI for a term of one year or more. A First Class Magistrate can direct to give the FPs of any person arrested in or for the purposes of any investigation or proceeding under Cr.PC under section 5 of the Identification of Prisoners Act 1920. A magistrate can also direct to take the finger print of a person in the course of a criminal trial u/s 73 of Indian Evidence Act. Under the provisions of S. 73 Indian Evidence Act and Section 5 and 6 of Identification of Prisoners Act, the law enforcing authorities and courts have been empowered to take finger prints of a person for the purpose of investigation or identification. If any convict resists giving finger prints, necessary measures should be to taken to secure his finger prints as per section 6 of Identification of Prisoners Act. If he still refuses, he can be charged u/s 186 IPC and he is liable for punishment.
  • 17. 17 The evidence of finger print expert is admissible in trial before court of law u/s 45 and u/s 73 of Indian Evidence Act. Under section 45 of Indian Evidence Act, when the court has to form an opinion upon a point of foreign law, or of science or art or as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions, the opinion upon that point of persons specially skilled in such foreign law, science or art or in questions as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions, are relevant facts. Such persons are called Experts. S. 73 of the Indian Evidence Act also covers finger printing. The court may direct any person present in the court to give his finger prints, if the same is required for comparison with questioned finger print by the court. It is also the law in India that a direction to appear for identification or an order to obtain finger prints or impression of hand, feet etc. or taking of samples of blood are not treated as amounting to self incrimination under Art. 20(3) of the Constitution of India (State vs. Kathikalu)xxviii . A finger print slip taken in pursuance of statutory duty cast upon Police Officers after convict enters jail is an act of the executive with the meaning of S. 74 of the Indian Evidence Act and it is therefore a public document. Under S. 293 Cr. PC report submitted by Director, FPB as expert opinion may be used as evidence. The court may also, if it thinks fit, summon and examine any such expert. Palm prints come within the section of 45 Indian Evidence Act and opinion of Experts as to identity or non-identity of palmer impressions is admissible in court. Under S. 60 of Indian Evidence Act if oral evidence refers to an opinion or to the grounds on which that opinion is held, it must be the evidence of the persons who holds that opinion on those grounds (i.e. expert need not be present in the court). Courts on Finger Print Evidence The first case on record of the admission of fingerprint evidence by the courts is the celebrated Thomas Herbert Castleton's Case of Englandxxix decided in 1909, in which the Lord Chief Justice held that fingerprint evidence was admissible although it was the sole grounds of identification. In Parker v. The King, the defendant Parker was convicted by means of fingerprints found on a bottle at the scene of the burglary. Chief Justice Griffith made the following statement in that decision: Signatures have been accepted as evidence of identity as long as they have been used. The fact of the individuality of the corrugations of the skin on the fingers of the human hand is now so generally recognized as to require very little, if any,
  • 18. 18 evidence of it, although it seems to be still the practice to offer some expert evidence on the point. A fingerprint is therefore in reality an unforgeable signature. That is now recognized in a large part of the world, and in some parts has, I think, been recognized for many centuries. In three cases in India, the British courts again upheld the previous opinionsxxx . The first real recognition of fingerprints in the US was in the case of People v. Jennings, which was handed down in December, 1911, and today is considered one of the most outstanding cases on admission and acceptance of fingerprint evidence. On the night of September 19, 1910, Clarence B. Hiller, his wife, and four children were fast asleep when Mrs. Hiller had awoken and noticed the gas light that they always kept on at night was not on. She alerted Mr. Hiller to this fact and he went to investigate the situation. At the head of the stairway he encountered an intruder and a struggle ensued. Both fell to the foot of the stairway and Mr. Hiller was shot twice. He died moments later. Mrs. Hiller screamed and the intruder fled. At the scene of the crime, three undischarged cartridges and two lead slugs were found. Particles of sand were found in one of the children's rooms. The point of entry was determined to be through a window in the kitchen. The railing near this window had recently been painted and it was here that the imprint of four fingers of someone's left hand was found imbedded in the fresh paint. At about 2:38 a.m. Thomas Jennings was spotted by police and was questioned as to what he was doing out so late. The officers noticed he was injured and when asked about this, he gave conflicting statements. They searched him and discovered he was carrying a loaded revolver. He was immediately arrested and taken to a doctor. Later, the police found out that Jennings had just been released on parole in August 1910 after serving a sentence for burglary. His fingerprint card was on file and was compared to the prints lifted at the Hiller household. Four fingerprint experts at Jennings' trial declared the fingerprints from the crime scene were a conclusive match to Jennings own prints. Based on this evidence, Jennings was convicted of murder on February 1, 1911. The Supreme Court of Illinois affirmed the lower court decision for the murder conviction.xxxi This decision is quoted in practically every case requiring a statement on fingerprint evidence, and it is often found in textbooks on the subject. In this decision Chief Justice Carter said: …. We are disposed to hold from the evidence of the four [expert] witnesses who testified and from the writings we have referred to on this subject, that there is a
  • 19. 19 scientific basis for the system of fingerprint identification and that the courts are justified in admitting this class of evidence; that this method of identification is in such general and common use that the courts cannot refuse to take judicial cognizance of it. Such evidence may or may not be of independent strength, but is admissible, the same as other proof, as tending to make out a case …..The general rule is that whatever tends to prove a material fact is relevant and competentxxxii . Indian Courts on the Probative Value of Fingerprint Evidence In United States Shipping Board v. The Ship 'St Albans', it was observedxxxiii , “The witness must have made a special study or acquired a special experience therein. That is he must be skilled and have adequate knowledge of the subject". It was held in Chitaman Dissil v. M.Lakshmanxxxiv that, "The mere opportunity to see Finger Prints does not make one an Expert. It is scientific study and outlook on the problem that is required for an Expert. As such a Sub- Registrar is not an Expert on Finger Prints..." In State of MP v. Sitaram Gajraj Singhxxxv it was held that "….no hard and fast rules can be laid down. Each case has to be seen on “Its own merits and cases of well grouped characteristics in a narrow area and patterns uncommon, six points or even less may be sufficient to fix the identity.” In Mohan Lal v. Ajit Singhxxxvi , it was held that, “Similarly it is for a competent technician to examine and give his opinion whether the identity can be established and if so whether this can be done on eight or even less identical characteristics in an appropriate case." In Jaspal Singh v. State of Punjabxxxvii , it was held that, "The science of identifying thumb impressions is an exact science and does not admit of any mistake." In Govinda Reddy v. State of Mysorexxxviii , it was held that "The science of comparison of finger prints has developed to a stage of exactitude. It is quite possible to compare the impressions, provided they are sufficiently clear and enlarged photography is available. The identification of finger impressions with the aid of a good magnifying glass is not difficult, particularly when the photographs of the latent and patent impressions are pasted side by side." In Chauthl v. Statexxxix , it was held that, "In a case of forgery in which the accused denied having put his thumb impressions, the accused was convicted on the evidence of the expert who gave his opinion that the thumb impression was that of the accused after comparing the finger prints of the complainant and the accused." In Bhaluka Behara and others v. Statexl , it was held that, "If
  • 20. 20 the finger prints are clear enough the Court must verify the evidence of the expert by examining them with a magnifying glass if necessary, and applying its own mind to the similarities or dissimilarities afforded by the finger prints, before coming to a conclusion one way or the other. The science has developed to a stage of exactitude. But the main thing to be scrutinized is whether the Expert's examination is thorough, complete and scientific." Courts have also not substituted their judgment for that of experts. Thus, in Public Prosecutor vs Kandasami Thevan, the Hon'ble High Court of Madrasxli observed that, "When the Experts appear on both sides, the Court cannot leave the matter merely by saying that it was difficult to prefer one of the report. The Court should have examined the characteristics with the magnifying glasses." In Kuppusamy Gounder and Anr v. Palaniappanxlii it was held that the Court was empowered to compare disputed thumb impression with that of an admitted thumb impression of the party and may record a finding on comparison, even in the absence of an expert’s opinion. In Drojan Singh v. Statexliii , the Delhi High Court acquitted Bhupender Singh in 2013 stating that a partial fingerprint of the accused was inadequate to convict the accusedxliv . The Court also ruled that the fingerprints or specimen handwriting of an accused taken by an Investigating Officer during probe into a case was admissible as evidence even though permission from a magistrate was not takenxlv . In Rama Nathan Vs. State of Tamil Naduxlvi , , it was observed that the mere fact that the identity of the accused could not be established on the basis of number of finger prints obtained during the course of investigation cannot be said to be enough to justify his acquittal when there was overwhelming evidence against him to establish his guilt. In State of Karnataka v. MN Ram Dasxlvii , it was held that failure to send murder weapon for finger prints may not be fatal keeping in view the fact that it was soaked in the blood or that there was other evidence connecting the accused. It is doubtful whether blood soaked chopper, if analyzed by a finger-print expert could have any clues as to finger-prints. In Musheer Khan & Badshah Khan & others v. State of MPxlviii , it has been held that evidence of finger print expert is not substantive evidence. Such evidence can only be used to corroborate some items of substantive evidence which are otherwise on record. In State of Maharashtra Vs. Anilxlix and Baso Prasad v. State of Biharl it has been held that unless it is established in the cross-examination that the opinion given by the expert is incorrect, the said evidence cannot be discarded on showing minor discrepancies. The question was raised before
  • 21. 21 the sessions Judge as to whether a conviction can be based upon the unsupported testimony of a fingerprint expert. The correct principle was defined by S.K. Ghose, J. in Hatendra Nath Sen v Emperorli : “I do not think that it can be laid down as a rule of law that it is unsafe to base a conviction on the uncorroborated testimony of a fingerprint expert. The true rule seems to me to be one of caution that is to say, the court must not take the expert’s opinion for granted , but it must examine his evidence in order to satisfy itself that there can be no mistake and the responsibility is all the greater when there is no other evidence to corroborate the expert.” In Bazari Hajam v. King Emperorlii the question arose whether it would be safe to act on the uncorroborated testimony of the fingerprints and declare the guilt of the accused. On this point Bucknill, J., observed thus: “ I think that apart from the fact that I should be rather sorry without any corroborative circumstances to convict a person of a serious crime solely and entirely upon similarity of thumb marks or finger prints, the very fact of the taking of a thumb-impression from an accused person for the purpose of possible manufacture of the evidence by which he could be incriminated is in itself sufficient to warrant one in setting aside the conviction upon the understanding and upon the assumption that such was not really a fair trial.”liii This view was disapproved of by Schwabe, C.J. in Public Prosecutor v Kandasami Thevanliv although the point did not directly arise in the case as there were thumb-impressions of the accused in evidence other than that taken by the judge in court for comparison with the thumb- impressions in the document alleged to have been forged. Thus while Courts in India have relied on finger print evidence, they have done so only on the basis of expert opinions, corroborated by other evidence. Yet they are criticized of shying away from increasingly sophisticated DNA fingerprinting as in the Arushi Talwar murder caselv .
  • 22. 22 Some Important Cases G. Alavandar vs Unknown In G. Alavandar vs Unknownlvi C. Alavandar, a pen salesman from Chennai was reported missing on August 28, 1952 by his employer Cunnan Chetty. The next day a headless body was discovered in a third class compartment of the Chennai-Dhanushkodi (Indo-Cylon boatmail) express. Police investigating the complaint, opened the trunk and found the headless body. An autopsy done at Manamadurai concluded that the body belonged to a 25 year old male. Since it was circumcised, the investigating police decided that the murder victim was a Muslim. After a few days, police discovered a severed head in Royapuram beach, Chennai. It had been buried in the beach sand, but was exposed due to tidal action. The head and body were sent to Madras Medical College for forensic examination. Dr. C P Gopalakrishnan who performed the examination concluded that both belonged to the same 42 year old male. Alavandar's wife later identified them as her husband's. Alavandar had served in the British Indian army and his fingerprints were on file there. They were used to conclusively prove that the murdered man was Alavandar. Himachal Pradesh Administration v. Om Prakash In this case, the Respondent was charged for murder under S. 302. The prosecution relied on the finger marks of the accused that were found on the flask as well as on the glass panes at the place where the murder took place. The High Court however did not accept these circumstances as having been established by any independent and reliable evidence. In view of this the High Court was not satisfied that the statements were freely and voluntarily made by the accused. Achievements of National Crime Records Bureau The Central Finger Print Bureau (CFPB) of the National Crime Records Bureau in a case of PS Golagumbaz, Bijapur City, Karnatakalvii recovered two chance prints from the crime scene that were partial prints with limited ridge characteristics. After extensive and intense analysis by finger print experts of CFPB, the first chance print was reported traced against a record slip from November 2009. The second chance print had to be manually traced and it was successfully matched to the same record slip with the help of the FP experts from CFPB. With both the chance prints matching to a single record slip, the identity of the culprit was established beyond
  • 23. 23 doubt. In another case, fingerprint experts of CFPB successfully identified a culprit with the help of chance prints developed from the scene of crime under Peerkankaranai Police Station, Chennailviii . On Nov 24, 2009, about six dacoits gained entry into a house under Peerkankaranai Police Station limits, Chennai, assaulted the lady inmate and took away the Ford Fiesta Car of the inmate, about 40 Gold sovereigns and Rs. 3 lakhs in cash. The culprits spoke in Hindi. The three chance prints received by CFPB were partial prints which were difficult to decipher in view of the limited area of the prints available. These chance prints were thoroughly scrutinized, scanned and meticulously edited in the Fingerprint Analysis & Criminal Tracing System (FACTS). The culprit was successfully identified and found to have been arrested by the Maharashtra Police in three separate FIRs even as his inter-state dacoit gang was busted. In yet another case, a burglary was committed in a house in the night of September 30/1st October, 2007 in Dehradunlix . Gold and diamond ornaments worth Rs. 20 lakh were stolen. The police was summoned immediately, who inspected the scene of crime thoroughly and questioned some people and took the finger prints of eleven suspects on the spot. Some finger prints from scene of crime were lifted as well and these were sent to CFPB that, in their report, found one finger print identical to the right thumb of the prime suspect. Uttaranchal Police immediately swung arrested the suspect. On interrogation, the suspect revealed the name of his accomplice in the crime that solved the case within fifteen days and the stolen jewels were recovered. Limitations of Finger Print Evidence in India Availability of digitizing and data mining hardware at all levels of police forces, high costs of digitization and preservation of fingerprinting cards, creation of national fingerprint database and networking between law and order maintenance forces are some technical issues that need to be resolved. Since India is a primarily agricultural country with large segments of its population engaged in physically taxing occupations, maimed individuals with lost limbs/part of limbs, worn out finger prints, presence of scars, warts, and deteriorating ridge/minutiae patterns in fingerprints from rural population represent major technical challenges. More challenges are matters of training, qualifications, testing equipment, climate control of preservation facilities, etc. Even as finger printing remains a major source of evidence, it is being gradually supplanted by more comprehensive DNA fingerprinting that uses several other parameters such as blood, perspiration, hair, skin and semen, etc. to more conclusively establish a crime, in addition to
  • 24. 24 fingerprints. Nonetheless, fingerprinting retains its relevance as institutions such as Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the National Population Register (NPR) and several others are working to create a unified individual profile database that, one day, may provide an intrusive source of information, without adequate legal protection for the fundamental rights of citizens, that may lend itself to multifarious applications. Naturally, ethics and privacy would remain areas of grave concern in such eventuality. Conclusion Comparing Pudd'nhead Wilson to another book, in a letter to Fred Hall on Jul 30, 1893, Mark Twain saidlx , “There was nothing new in that story, but the finger-prints in this one are virgin ground-absolutely fresh, and mighty curious and interesting to everybody.” Fingerprint evidence cannot be wished away nor supplanted by other forms of evidence. However, given the rise in global crime rates, particularly in India, it is imperative that new technology is utilized to take and preserve fingerprints. While combining finger/biometric prints in electronic databases, ethics and privacy must remain the main concerns of those in authority that access and use this sensitive information so that Indian citizens’ fundamental rights are not infringed. Bibliography i Fisher, B. A. J. (2004). Techniques of crime scene investigation. (7th ed.) New York, NY: CRC Press. ii Op. cit Note i iii Gardner, R. M. (2004). Practical crime scene processing and investigation. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. iv Op. cit Note i v Lee, H. C., Palmbach, T. M., & Miller, M. T. (2004). Henry Lee's crime scene handbook. San Diego, California: Elsevier Academic press. vi Available at http://ridgesandfurrows.homestead.com/friction_skin.html on Jan 25, 2014 vii Palmiotto, Michael J. (1994) Criminal Investigation. Chicago: Nelson Hall viii Available at http://technologyinterface.nmsu.edu/summer97/security/finger.html on Jan 25, 2014 ix Op. Cit Note viii x Op. Cit Note vii xi Kaci, Judy Hails. (1995) Criminal Evidence. Nevada: Copperhouse Publishing, quoted at http://technologyinterface.nmsu.edu/summer97/security/finger.html on Jan 25, 2014 xii Saferstein, Richard. (1995) Criminalistics: An Introduction to forensic science. New Jersey: Prentice Hall quoted at http://technologyinterface.nmsu.edu/summer97/security/finger.html on Jan 25, 2014
  • 25. 25 xiii Report of Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems by the Bureau of Justice Statistics quoted at http://technologyinterface.nmsu.edu/summer97/security/finger.html on Jan 25, 2014 xiv Available at http://technologyinterface.nmsu.edu/summer97/security/finger.html on Jan 25, 2014 xv 13 Cr.L.J.563 xvi Available at http://www.fingerprintamerica.com/fingerprinthistory.asp on Jan 25, 2014 xvii Op. cit Note xi xviii William J Herschel: The Origins of Fingerprinting, OUP, 1916, digital edition available at galton.org/fingerprints/books/herschel/herschel-1916-origins-1up.pdf on Jan 28, 2014 xix GS Sodhi & Jasjeet Kaur: Indian Civilization and the Science of Fingerprinting, Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, Vol. 2(2), Apr 2013, pp. 126-136 xx Op. cit Note xi xxi Op. cit Note xi xxii Op. cit Note xi xxiii Op. cit Note xi xxiv Op. cit Note xi xxv Op. cit Note xi xxvi Available at http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/probative_value on Jan 25, 2014 xxvii Op. cit Note iii xxviii AIR 1961 SC 1808 xxix Block, Frank S. (1932) "Fingerprint Evidence," Chicago-Kent Law Review: Vol. 10: Iss. 4, Article 1 available at http://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol10/iss4/1 on Jan 25, 2014 xxx Op. cit Note xxvii xxxi Available at http://scafo.org/library/140401.html on Jan 25, 2014 xxxii Op. cit Note xxvii xxxiii AIR 1931, Privy Council 189 xxxiv ILR Bom 101 xxxv Raipur MPLJ 197 (201): Cr.L.J. 1220 (1223) xxxvi AIR 1978 S.C. 1183 xxxvii AIR 1979 SC 1708 1979 Cr.L.J. 1386 xxxviii AIR 1958 Mys. 177, Cr.L.J. 1489 xxxix 1978 Cr.L.J. (NOC) 122 All. xl AIR 1957 Orissa 172 xli AIR 1923 Mad 178 xlii 2012 1 MLJ 449 xliii CRL.A. 408/2007 xliv Available at http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/hc-acquits-man-of-murder-14-yrs-after-he-was- jailed/1204425/1 on Jan 25, 2014 xlv Available at http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/investigators-can-present-fingerprint- handwriting-sample-as-evidence-hc/ on Jan 25, 2014 xlvi AIR 1978 SC 1204 xlvii 2002 7 SCC 639 xlviii AIR 2010 SC 762 xlix 2006 Cr.L.J. (NOC) 288 (Bom) l 2006 13 SCC 65 li AIR 1931 Cal 441 available at http://indiankanoon.org/doc/682001/ on Jan 28, 2014 lii AIR 1922 Pat.73 :23 Cr. L.J 638
  • 26. 26 liii Available athttp://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/article/forensic-sciences-&-criminology-536- 1.html on Jan 28, 2014 liv AIR 1927 Mad. 696 :27 Cr. L. J 1251 lv Available at http://www.firstpost.com/india/why-the-aarushi-trial-was-a-double-murder-of-forensics- investigation-1250025.html on Jan 25, 2014 lvi AIR 1957 Mad 427 lvii Available at http://ncrb.nic.in/achievements.htm on Jan 28, 2014 lviii Op. cit Note lvi lix Op. cit Note lvi lx Available at http://www.twainquotes.com/Fingerprints.html on Feb 12, 2014

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