Case BriefsSupreme Court

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]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench of P.C. Ghose and R.F. Nariman, JJ held that any person can be directed to give his finger prints or foot-prints for corroboration of evidence but the same cannot be considered as violation of the protection guaranteed under Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India. The Court however, added that non-compliance of such direction of the Court may lead to adverse inference, nevertheless, the same cannot be entertained as the sole basis of conviction.

In the present case, where a man was accused of killing his father-in-law, mother-in-law, their daughters and a pet dog, the State had appealed against the order of the Allahabad High Court where the co-accused was acquitted on the ground that adverse inference cannot be drawn by the Court on refusal to give specimen palm impression in spite of the order of the Court.

Prosecution had contended that human blood was found on the weapon of murder and clothes of both the accused and since comparison of finger-prints and foot-prints were not clear, the Trial Court directed both the accused to give fresh foot-prints and finger-prints. The counsel appearing for the co-accused contended that drawing adverse inference against the co-accused due to his refusal to give specimen palm impression was not justified as earlier palm impression report came in negative and application moved by the co-accused praying for sending footprints and fingerprints to some other laboratory was rejected by the Trial Court.

Upholding the decision of the High Court, the Court said that the basic foundation of the prosecution had crumbled down in this case by not connecting the co-accused with the incident in question. And when basic foundation in criminal cases is so collapsed, the circumstantial evidence becomes inconsequential. In such circumstances, it is difficult for the Court to hold that a judgment of conviction could be founded on the sole circumstance that recovery of weapon and other articles have been made. [State of U.P. v. Sunil, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 520, decided on 02.05.2017]