Supreme Court Rules That Police Can Obtain Fingerprint Of Accused Without Magistrate’s Order

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Supreme Court of India was called to interpret section 4 and 5 of Identification of Prisoners Act,1920 to determine whether a magistrate’s order is necessary for police to obtain fingerprint specimen of the accused. Supreme Court answered in negative.

Facts Of The Case

The three Accused in this case were convicted and punished for murder, robbery and common intention by the Session’s Court. In an appeal to Delhi High Court, The Court confirmed the sentence for accused no.1 and 2. Aggrieved by the decision of Delhi High Court Accused No.2 preferred an appeal in Supreme Court of India. Accused No.1 did not join the appeal and is undergoing his sentence awarded by Delhi High Court. Victims were persons of the third gender and were found murdered with injury marks on their body by Police in their apartment at Shaheen Bagh. Postmortem revealed that cause of death was a shock to haemorrhage caused by injuries from a sharp weapon sufficient to cause death in ordinary course of nature. Police recovered six chance print from the crime scene.

Two major issues were involved in the case were:

  1. Does police have the power to take fingerprints of accused ?
  1. Can the power of police under section 4 be applied in absence of rules under section 8.?

Decision Of The Case

The verdict was delivered by both Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice Ashok Bhushan with Justice Indu Malhotra dealing with the factual aspect of the case and Justice Ashok Bhushan dealt with the question of law involved. Both the judges acquitted the accused as the prosecution failed to establish the guilt of accused due to an incomplete chain of events.

A plethora of judgments was relied on by the appellants to prove their case. Justice Ashok Bhusan dealt with them in his separate judgment. The court ruled that Mohd. Aman and Anr. v. The state of Rajasthan could not be interpreted in a manner to mean that Police Officer cannot obtain fingerprints without obtaining written permission or order from Magistrate. Furthermore, Court vehemently relied on the judgment of full-judge bench in Shankaria v. State of Rajasthan wherein it was held very clearly that itis not necessary for the police officer to obtain an order from a magistrate for obtaining a specimen of fingerprints.

Moreover, Bench also observed that

 “The object of the Section was not to empower the Police Officer to take fingerprints in trivial offenses where imprisonment is less than one year but the provision cannot be read to mean that Police Officer does not have such power if imprisonment is for life or capital punishment

While answering Issue no. 2 bench said that

Non-framing of any rules under Section 8 by the State Government does not prohibit the exercise of powers given under Sections 3 and 4 of the Act. haemorrhage as prescribed but in a case where no rules have been framed, the authorities
as empowered under section 3 and a are not denuded of their powers to act under Sections 3 and 4. In a case, the interpretation put by the learned counsel for the appellant that in absence of rules framed under Section 8, no power can be exercised under Sections 3 and 4 is accepted, the provision of section 3 and 4 shall become dead letter, which has never been the intention of the legislature in enacting the 1920 Act
.”

Learning of the Case

From this case, We learn that police is well within its limit if it takes fingerprints of accused without an order of the same from Magistrate. This precedent will help increase the speed of investigation but at the same time, it may be misused by corrupt police officers to harass innocent and law-abiding citizens for their own vested interests.

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