Conviction cannot be solely based on the non-compliance of the order to give fingerprints/footprints

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]

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