Prior sanction of Magistrate not required for taking fingerprints of accused or a suspect

Supreme Court: Ashok Bhushan, J. discussed the validity of procedure of taking fingerprints under Identification of Prisoners Act 1920, while delivering a separate opinion in a decision along with Indu Malhotra, J. who also delivered the Judgment wherein the appellant-convict was acquitted from the offence under Sections 302 and 392 read with Section 34 IPC.

Bhushan, J., in his opinion interpreted Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Act. Firstly, the Judge observed, looking at the objects and reasons of the Act, the purpose behind enacting it was to remedy the mischief where police officers took fingerprints of convicts and suspects without legal sanction for the same. Looking at the Sections named above the Judge observed, those were separate and independent provisions pertaining to taking of fingerprints. Section 4 (taking fingerprints of a non-convict) does not exclude the cases where punishment for the offence is death or life imprisonment. Neither there is any bar on taking of fingerprints by the police officer in absence of orders taken from the Magistrate. Further, the police officer is not denuded of powers to take fingerprints under Sections 3 and 4, even in absence of rules made by the State under Section 8.

However, in the instant case, the Hon’ble Bench held that even if the chance fingerprint of the appellant was accepted in evidence, it did not complete the chain of events, unerringly pointed towards the guilt of the appellant in commision of the murder. Further Malhotra, J. in the Judgment delivered by her noted that there was no eyewitness to the incident, the conviction was based on circumstantial evidence; however, the prosecution failed to complete the chain of events to prove the guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable doubt. As such, the appeal was allowed and the appellant was acquitted. [Sonvir v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2018 SCC OnLine SC 650, decided on 02-07-2018]

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