`Cops can take fingerprints sans magistrate`s nod`

The Delhi High Court has held that police can take sample fingerprints of an accused without prior permission from a magistrate.

New Delhi: Police are well within their rights to take sample fingerprints and specimen handwriting of an accused without prior permission from a magistrate and this is admissible as evidence, the Delhi High Court has held.

The ruling was given by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justice Anil Kumar and Sanjiv Khanna on a doubt raised by the court`s two-judge bench over the admissibility of sample fingerprints and specimen handwriting of an accused, collected without court`s permission, as evidence in a case.

"Under Section 4 of the Identification of Prisoners (IP) Act, police is competent to take fingerprints of the accused and such evidence would not be held inadmissible," the court ruled, clarifying the doubt.

The bench added that the absence of court`s order to collect the handwriting or fingerprints of an accused will not vitiate its evidentiary value.

"Neither Section 5 IP Act nor Section 311-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure put any embargo on investigating officer for acting on his own for taking the fingerprints, signature or handwriting of the accused during investigation. There is no mandatory provision to obtain the permission of the magistrate," the bench said.

The two-judge bench had referred its query to Chief Justice Misra and had sought its resolution by a larger bench in April.

The bench had raised the query while hearing an appeal of convicts Drojan Singh and Bhupender Singh, sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999 in a robbery-cum-murder case on the basis circumstantial evidence, which were based upon their fingerprints and handwritings.

The issue was raised by the defence counsel, questioning the collection of fingerprint and the handwriting of the accused by the police without magisterial approval.


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