Probative Value of Fingerprint Evidence


The field of forensics, which deals with fingerprint examination and identification of ​fingerprints, is an emerging legal term. This basic concept goes back to its origin in Asia. In India, it evolved as part of the medical-legal evolution for justice. From the ridge classification, the impressions were categorized into some impressions, namely latent, visible and others in order to capture them in the data. The investigating officer according to the aforementioned departmental procedure must take the prints from the crime scene and later forward them to the fingerprint office. Recording such impressions does not violate the fundamental right enshrined in Article 20 (3) of the Indian Constitution. The provisions of the Prisoner Identification Act of 1920 state that a police officer may record or take impressions of any prisoner for investigation. However, it in no way violates a person’s personal freedom as provided for in Article 21 of the Constitution.

Fingerprints, handprints, and footprints are widely recognized and accepted as a reliable means of identifying a person. Friction marks on a fingerprint or imprint can be left on an object when touched, allowing the imprint to be used to personally identify individuals in a criminal investigation. Law enforcement agencies use fingerprints, handprints, and footprints to aid their investigation to identify the person who committed the crime.

Admissibility of Fingerprint Evidence

The earliest connection with fingerprints in any criminal document or legislative enactment seems to be that contained within side the Act of 1899, amending the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, handed through the Government of India. Section forty five read: When the Court has to shape an opinion upon a factor of overseas law, or of technological know-how or art, or as to the identification of hand writing or finger impressions, the evaluations upon that factor of men and women in particular profession in such overseas law, technological know-how or art, hand writing or finger impressions are applicable facts. Such men and women are referred to as experts. It is cited in fingerprint textbooks that earlier, in 1892, fingerprints have been used for the conviction of criminals through Argentine pioneer Dr. Juan Vucetich, however no reviews are determined regarding the details.

In 1897, an Indian turned into indicted for homicide and robbery at Jalpaiguri. Two brown smudges of fingerprints determined on the crime scene have been delivered in proof in opposition to him. Confronted with the unconventional sort of proof such as fingerprints only, and in the face of defendant’s now no longer responsible plea, the courtroom docket regarded sufficiently satisfied of the really well worth of fingerprints to discover the defendant responsible at the robbery charge, but now no longer pretty inclined to simply accept the proof to verify a capital charge, and acquitted the accused at the homicide charge.

One of the earliest instances in which the validity of fingerprint testimony turned into upheld turned into Emperor v. Sahdeo in which the reviewing tribunal in India held that if it turned into confirmed through able professional testimony that finger impressions made at specific times, but a long way apart, comprise numerous factors of settlement and no factors of confrontation of their ridge characteristics, no further proof turned into essential to show that they have been made through the same finger.

Fingerprints Consistent with Innocence

While fingerprints discovered on the scene of a criminal offense can be well admitted in proof to show the identification of the accused, the testimony ought to be excluded if it seems from the information that the prints could have been deposited there innocently or while the character became lawfully at the premises. In such case, the prints might be steady with innocence, fifty one Failure to exclude the proof might then be reversible error. Thus, in a prosecution for larceny of an automobile, proof that the defendant’s thumb print became discovered at the rear view replicate of the recovered car, even though it set up the reality that defendant have been within the auto, became held now no longer sufficient, within side the absence of different proof, to set up defendant’s guilt of the offense charged, because the thumbprint may also were deposited in the fee of a trespass.

Similarly, fingerprints of an accused discovered round burglarized premises without problems available to the public are commonly with out probative cost. It seems, therefore, that testimony should genuinely establish that fingerprints discovered on the scene of a criminal offense ought to best have been deposited there on the time while the crime became committed. Since the time detail is of the essence, defendant can also additionally well contend that the proof of his fingerprints discovered on the scene of a criminal offense while after its fee is inadmissible if the prosecution fails to set up the time at which the fingerprints have been made.

Expert Testimony: Conclusions as Opinion or Fact

Since it’s been set up that fingerprints offer a means of fantastic identification, the protection can also additionally contend that the professional witness is attesting to an final reality, as opposed to proffering an opinion as to the identification of sure fingerprints. Thus, in State v. Steffen, fifty five it became held that the professional can also additionally testify best as to his opinion or belief, however he can not testify to the final information that should be decided with the aid of using the jury. In that case, testimony that the fingerprints have been made with the aid of using the defendant became held to be reversible error. The holding, however, became later overruled. The rule of the Steffen case became now no longer commonly accompanied and different courts have time and again held that whilst its far identified that fingerprint proof is circumstantial or opinionated in nature, the primary cause for the overall popularity of its admissibility in proving identification is its infallibility or conclusiveness.

Therefore, it’s been held that fingerprint proof is admissible, now no longer as a circumstance, however as a reality, and that an professional can also additionally say that in his opinion the print couldn’t were made with the aid of using any different character. Of course, the real probative cost of the proof stays for the jury to decide.

Right to Fingerprint: General Considerations

The constitutionality of acquiring fingerprints upon the arrest of an person has been challenged time and again in current years. If the police are to be prevented, on constitutional grounds, from verifying an arrestee’s identification via way of means of evaluating his fingerprints in opposition to the ones on report, they could straight away turn out to be nearly powerless to put into effect the regulation, for the reason that now no longer most effective could a criminal’s assumption of a fake identification which will keep away from punishment turn out to be relatively hard to locate and prove, however additionally regulation enforcement could of necessity damage down within the research of crimes that are dedicated daily. Most criminals are repeaters. Thus, the necessity for the police to accumulate a report of fingerprints in opposition to which latent prints discovered at crime scenes can be compared.

If the police can’t fingerprint arrestees earlier than conviction, they will fail to accumulate this type of report. It could truly imply that regulation enforcement could make a step backwards in time of approximately sixty years to a time while there has been no fingerprinting at all. It is not likely that within the destiny the authority to fingerprint and to preserve fingerprint facts may be extra and extra challenged as violative of the constitutional ensures of person human liberties. It consequently turns into essential to know via way of means of what authority such prints can be recorded, earlier than or after conviction. We need to additionally take a look at whether or not a case may be made in choose of the proposition which seeks to save you the taking of fingerprints of arrestees earlier than conviction. After conviction, the fingerprints are of little investigative use.


Fingerprints are unique, and may be used to become aware of an person with out worry of faulty identity. This factor is uncontradicted. Such identity via way of means of fingerprints can be explained via way of means of duly certified fingerprint professionals on the trial. In the majority of jurisdictions, an professional witness could be allowed to testify as to the closing reality that fingerprints are identical, as a substitute than proffer an opinion as to their identification or non-identification. Fingerprints discovered on against the law scene, developed, and in comparison with the ones of a defendant, aren’t admissible in proof if the crime scene prints might have been deposited there while the accused turned into lawfully at that place.

The prosecution, therefore, should show that the crime scene prints he gives in proof are inconsistent with the defendant’s alleged absence from the scene on the time the crime turned into committed. Under the right circumstances, a few jurisdictions permit the creation of fingerprint document playing cards from overseas jurisdictions, supplied such playing cards are duly authenticated, for the reason of offering more desirable punishment.

This article is authored by Diksha Barrot, student at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University. 




What are the characteristics of fingerprints?

The major characteristics of fingerprints are as follows:-

  1. Fingerprints are consistent, they never change over time.
  2. Fingerprints are varied, each individual has an unique or distinct fingerprint.
  3. Fingerprints cannot be forged 
  4. Fingerprints are generally classified into Whirls, Loops and Ridges.

What is the study of fingerprints called?

The study of fingerprints is known as Dactyloscopy. The word originates from the Greek language where “Dactylo” means “finger or toe” and “scope” means “to study” or “to observe”.

What are the laws relating to fingerprints evidence in India?

The two primary laws relating to fingerprints in India are The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920. 

Can the constitutional validity of fingerprints be challenged under Right against self-incrimination [Article 20(3)]?

No. This issue was settled in the case of State of U.P v. Sunil, where the Supreme Court of India held that, any individual can be ordered to produce his fingerprints or footprints for the purpose of confirmation of evidence, and this is not deemed as a breach of Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution.

what does the term “probative value” signify under evidence law?

Probative value under evidence law refers to the competence of an evidence to prove or disprove any strongly contented claims. The probative value of the evidence varies from case to case, and the court must decide after thoroughly evaluating the expert’s opinion and other corroborating evidence.

Under what circumstances does the court accept fingerprints evidence?

Fingerprint evidence may be recognized as evidence based on the expert witness’ statement and cross-examination; it must be demonstrated that the expert has specialized knowledge on the issue on which he intends to express a logical opinion.  The Court has the option to include expert testimony as significant facts of the case or not, and its decision will not be overturned unless a blatant violation of justice is proven.

Recording fingerprints is an infringement of the Right to privacy?

The collection of a person’s fingerprints by police when they are in detention on a criminal charge is not an unjustified breach of their right to privacy. When it comes to public rights, the Right to privacy is not absolute, and it will always have certain limitations.

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