The Supreme Court on January 14, 2018, in the case of Ashish Jain v. Makrand Singh has observed that the fingerprint evidence of the accused cannot be said to be illegally obtained merely on the ground that magisterial order authorizing the police to obtain fingerprints of the accused was absent.
A Bench comprising of Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar was hearing two appeals filed against the Madhya Pradesh High Court judgment wherein the court reversed the conviction of three accused who were sentenced to death by the trail court.
The three accused were charged for offences punishable under Sections 302 read with 34, 394 read with 34 and 449 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, for allegedly committing an offence of robbery and murdering three persons during the course of it.
When the trial court convicted and sentenced all the accused to death, an appeal was filed in the Madhya Pradesh High Court by the State and one of the relatives of the deceased. The High Court, allowing their appeal, had acquitted the three accused on the ground that the fingerprint evidence was illegally obtained by the police as there was no authorization of the same by the Magistrate.
The Bench referred to Sections 4 and 5 of the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, and the State Rules made thereunder and said that "As held by this Court in Sonvir (supra), although Section 4 mentions that the police officer is competent to take measurements of the accused, but to dispel doubts as to its bona fides and to rule out the fabrication of evidence, it is eminently desirable that they were taken before or under the order of a Magistrate. However, the aforesaid observations cannot be held to mean that this Court observed that under Section 4, police officers are not entitled to take fingerprints until the order is taken from a Magistrate. If certain suspicious circumstances do arise from a particular case relating to lifting of fingerprints, in order to dispel or ward off such suspicious circumstances, it would be in the interest of justice to get orders from the Magistrate. Thus there cannot be any hard and fast rule that in every case, there should be a magisterial order for lifting the fingerprints of the accused. Thus, it cannot be held that the fingerprint evidence was illegally obtained merely due to the absence of a magisterial order authorizing the same."
However, the Bench concurred with the High Court in discarding the fingerprint evidence in view of the fact that the absence of a magisterial order casts doubts on the credibility of the fingerprint evidence, especially with respect to the packing and sealing of the tumblers on which the fingerprints were allegedly found. Moreover, the court also noted that, the attesting witnesses, were not independent witnesses, being the family members of the deceased.
The Bench thus upholding the judgment of the Madhya Pradesh High Court acquitted all the accused.