ISSN: 2581-8465

Scientific and Legal Sanctity of Fingerprints in Identification Of Criminals

Author: Bodapati Vamsi Krishna* & Boddu Divya Sri**


This article explains about the Fingerprints how the fingerprint science developed in India and scientific methods and collection of fingerprints, admission of fingerprints, laws regulating the fingerprints in India and advantages of collection of the fingerprints.


In olden days photographs were used to identify the criminals. But the investigation officers were not satisfied with this method because of this method so many innocent people were punished. Later the investigation or identification officer feel better satisfied when he is fortunate enough to secure fingerprints, palm prints & foot-prints at the scene of the crime. There is then no doubt in his mind as to the guilt or innocence of the suspect. Fingerprints, Palm-prints, bare soles impressions have been for the most part accepted and recognized as trustworthy methods to recognize a person. When the hand is touched on anything a replica of the friction ridge arrangements of fingerprint, palm-print, or footprint might be left on a thing. This allows the imprint to be utilized for the individual distinguishing proof of people in criminal examinations. Accordingly, the fingerprints of forensic science, palm-prints, and footprints are used by law enforcement agencies in the help of their investigations to find the culprit.

Finger Prints as a technique of recognition referred to as DACTYLOSCOPY – has become well known and fundamental to the Modern Law Enforcement.DACTYLOSCOPY – relies upon the three standard opinions:

1. There are no two same Finger Prints and

2. Finger Prints are not changeable throughout the life of a person.

3. Even though all patterns are different in their ridge characteristics, it changes within its limits, which permits efficient/ methodical categorization.

Fingerprint had become the most important aspect of criminal investigation and the criminal identification process used for centuries in criminal investigations. In the case of United States v. Havvard[1]one judge expressed his opinion on fingerprints as “the very archetype of reliable expert testimony,” likens his decision to admit them to a deposition that “the sky is blue and the sunrise in the east yesterday”. Galton wrote a book on fingerprints. In his book, he explained that the fingerprints have three patterns whorls, loops, and arches. In that book, he also explained that no two fingerprints are identical and that a person prints continue to be unchanged from time to time. This British government adopted fingerprinting as a supplement to the Bertillon system[2].

Fingerprints Of Twins

There was a misconception that twins have identical fingerprints. But, in practice, it was not the same. Fingerprint identification doesn’t stop with the resemblance of pattern however is attendant upon coincident sequence & characteristics of the papillary ridges never to meet on same points taken by different fingers of same persons of twins or other people

In the Atlanta twin murder case, Donald and Ronald’s smith are twins. Donald had committed murder. Polices had arrested Ronald smith instead of Donald. During the trial, it was found that fingerprints found at the crime scene were different from Roland. So Ronald was acquitted and later polices arrested and convicted Donald smith for the offence. So fingerprints of the twins are different and not identical

Development Of Finger Print Science In India

In 1880, Fauld proposed that skin ridge patterns could be vital distinguishing proof of culprits. William Herschel, an English official serving in India in 1858, began the practice of forcing natives to sign contracts with their watermark of the right hand, which was hard-pressed against the stamp pad for this cause. The first central fingerprint bureau established in India in the year 1905 at Shimlar. The taking of the fingerprints is considered as the most accurate scientific technique to identify the criminal if there is any doubt or mistake the same was not admitted by the court of law[3]. Present-day the crime rate is increased from past then the identification of the criminals through the finger prints[4]& manual system of developing the fingerprints become the most difficult part. So there is a need for Automated Finger Print Identification System the same thing was felt by the fingerprint experts and the police officials all over the world.

In India, AFPIS was first installed at the central fingerprint bureau of the NCRB in the year 1992. This technology is used for image processing and pattern of reorganization techniques to capture, encode, store and matching of fingerprints of single digited as well as ten digited number of fingerprints.


One of the most important findings that science has done in criminal investigations is the development of chance prints deserted by offenders at the crime scene or on crime articles and their identification[5]. Because these prints come specifically from the individual’s body, their development, and identification help to establish his physical presence of criminals at the crime scene. A portion of a chance print with satisfactory correspondence points found at the crime scene or on a crime article, provided it conflicts with innocence, is considered sufficient means to sustain a conviction

At the crime scene, experts utilize different techniques, modern equipment, and numerous light sources to develop chance prints and photograph them, which are then contrasted and accepted as fingerprints.

Fingerprints found at the place of crime are of three kinds. They are visible prints, plastic prints, latent prints.


The chosen powder is lightly applied to the suspected place with a fine fingerprints brush. It should be applied in one direction than in a new direction. When the ridges starting appear, the brushing should be done in the way by following ridges. The developed fingerprints are instantly photographed after suitable marking and initializing. Here the researchers are explaining some of the cases regarding the evidence available at the scene of the crime in the case of State v. Conn[6]evidence was received as to prints that had been made by a burglar on a balcony post. In the case of People v. Roach[7] prints made in blood by a murderer on the clapboards of a house. State v. Cerciello[8]the prints were made by a murderer on the hatchet with which the crime was committed. The common thing about fingerprints found at the crime scene or crime articles are partially smudged and its skilled and experienced fingerprint expert to say if a print can be used as a fingerprint test. Likewise, it is skilled to analyze them and to express their opinion on the possibility of establishing identity, and if what should be possible on eight or even less indistinguishable characteristics in a suitable case[9].


The physical method of collection of fingerprints is most commonly used. In this method, generally grey and black powders were used. Usually, black powder is utilized for developing prints on light-colored surfaces, and grey powder in contrasting colored surfaces. The prints developed with fluorescent powder shine under U.V. beams and can be captured on common highly contrasting film.


The chemical method of developing fingerprints is also known as the Iodine Fuming Method Development. Generally, this method is used for developing the latent fingerprints perhaps this is the most consolidated technique for the development of latent impressions on porous surfaces, on particular on reports, documents, the strategy continues to have a vital place for the exclusive work of fingerprints. When the iodine crystals are subjected to reasonable heat, they vaporize and emit violet fumes. The prints become clearly visible in shades of yellowish-brown. The prints developed with iodine in the vapor state are not permanent and start to fade as soon as the fuming is pulled back and, therefore, when they are in full intensity. They should be captured immediately. When a finger comes in contact with an inked surface, only the ridges pick up the ink, on putting the inked finger on the slip, the ridges are reproduced as they appear on the finger.


According to Section 3 and 4 of the Identification of Prisoners Act,1920 The Station official and investigators have the power to take the fingerprints of the accused who have been convicted (under section 3) and the non-convicted persons (under section 4) who have been arrested in relation with a punishable offense with rigorous imprisonment for a period of one year or more than one year or any offense which renders him liable to increased punishment on a subsequent conviction. Otherwise, any person ordered to ensure his good behavior under the Criminal Procedure Code 1973.

A First Class Magistrate can direct[10]to give the fingerprints of any person arrested or for the determinations of any investigation or proceeding under the Criminal Procedure Code pursuant to section 5 of the Identification of Prisoners Act,1920. A magistrate may also direct the fingerprint of a person during a criminal trial according to Section 73 of the Indian Evidence Act. Under the provisions of Section 73 of the Indian Evidence Law and Section 5 and 6 of the Identification of Prisoners Act, the enforcement authorities of the law and judicial authorities have been authorized to take a person’s fingerprints for investigation or identification purposes. If any convict resists giving fingerprints. Action Required Take your fingerprints in accordance with Section 6 of the Identification of Prisoners Act. If he still resists or refuses to give it is an offence under section 186 Indian Penal Code and he is liable for punishment. Section 293 of the Criminal Procedure Code exempts the director of fingerprint bureaus from appearing in the court for excerpt testimony. The accused may be compelled to put his legs in the previous stages of the trial phase according to sections 4 and 5 of the Identification of Prisoners Act. Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act.[11], 1872 does allow experts’ opinions in certain cases regarding finger impressions.


In India When a person is called by any court of law or any investigating authority to give testimony and he does fingerprints in such circumstance violates the fundamental rights[12].In common law also the same principle followed the same is held in the case of People v. Sallow [13]. Even in case the person without his knowledge given his fingerprints in another course of the transaction if he given it can be used against him.[14]


Judgments have long been recognized fingerprints and handwriting analysis as a sound method for making trustworthy identifications. Fingerprint identification is admissible[15] as credible evidence in the criminal proceedings in common laws country from at least 1911. The same was held in the case of States v. Crisp[16]. The evidence of finger impression is admissible, but the person giving his opinion as in other cases must be an expert. Comparison is to be made with the finger impressions proved beyond doubt or admitted. Expert opinion of fingerprints has the same value as other expert opinions. The court uses its own discretion and to affirm or differ from the expert opinion this was held in the case of Parappa v. Bhimappa[17].

The initial case recorded by the courts is that of the well known Thomas Herbert Castleton’s judgment of 1909, in which the Lord Chief Justice held that fingerprint proofs were admissible, although this was the only reason for identification. In Parker v. The King,[18] the defendant Parker was convicted by fingerprinting found on a bottle at the burglary site. Chief Justice Griffith made the following statement in this decision: The signatures were established as proof of identity as long as they were utilized.

And there is no need to have any doubt about the admission of fingerprints as evidence because the identification done by using fingerprint was an exact science. In case of any doubt, it can’t be admissible by the court of law[19]. The photographs of the finger impressions are admissible as evidence [20]. For the purpose collection of the finger impression of the accused the court may also express in writing to anyone to attend in the court for that purpose[21]. Even an accused person may be directed for his finger impression[22]. It is highly unsafe to convict a person with capital punishment without any independent corroboration of the opinion of the fingerprint expert[23]. The court must satisfy itself about the v of the conclusions by comparisons of the prints it can’t be set out a rule of law that it is not safe to have a conviction on the unproven testimony of a fingerprint expert. Where the fingerprint expert fails to give reasons for his opinion, in his certificate but has given reasons at the time of examination in court and when they are not challenged in cross-examination, his evidence was held to be admissible.[24]The fingerprints should be collected by the excerpt as early as possible from the scene of the crime in case if there was a delay in collecting the same it is inadmissible.

Advantages of taking the Finger Prints:

  • To maintain a permanent record, who has been convicted by the court of law.
  • The fingerprints play a very important role in the identification of unidentified dead bodies including the natural calamities victims[25].
  • Comparison with the questioned prints in any suits.
  • To compare with the chance prints available and developed from the scene of the crime.
  • Finger Prints can be used instead of the signatures.


A forged fingerprint is nothing but the fingerprints not have produced on which they appear, directly from the finger which they belong to it. In other words, the prints which are reproduced or transferred from one surface to another surface involves a person without his knowledge. Proving that the particular fingerprint is forged or not is a vital question. If one proves that a particular fingerprint was proved beyond a doubt that the fingerprint in the question of the impression made from the hand of the defendant, then the fingerprint has some value. If the expert on the fingerprint cannot prove its genuineness or falsity, this testimony has no value.There is more than one way to forge a fingerprint. The forgery of fingerprints can be done by using various photographic techniques or through metallic or rubber stamps. But it is very difficult to forge the fingerprints successfully.[26]


Fingerprints are fixed and do not change with age, so an individual will always have the same impression from childhood to adulthood. The fingerprint patterns changes by size, but not shape, as the person grows up. Every person will have their own unique fingerprints, these won’t change by time, so they can be used for identification of the person. So polices uses fingerprints as a main clue to identify the real culprit. Fingerprint evidence are admissible under the court of law even though it the only ground for identification. Fingerprints, unlike signature, cannot be forged. The system of fingerprint identification was so common and reliable piece of evidence and it was justified in admitting it as evidence, the courts cannot reject it for judicial cognizance.

*5th  year student of B.A.,L.L.B. (Hons.), Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, “NYAYAPRASTHA”, Sabbavaram, Vishakhapatnam, India.

** 5th  year student of B.A.,L.L.B. (Hons.), Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, “NYAYAPRASTHA”, Sabbavaram, Vishakhapatnam, India.

[1]United States v. Havvard,  117 F. Supp. 2d 848, 855 (S.D. Ind. 2000).

[2] This system is nothing but the identification of a person based on His physical characteristics.

[3]Chotti Vs. Maya Devi,2011 Indlaw PNH 2605has laid down that “the science of identifying the thumb impression is an exact science and does not admit of any mistake or doubt.”

[4] The finger-prints of persons charged with a criminal offense anywhere in the state are sent to the state bureau, where they are filed without delay, and when identifications are made the previous record of the accused is sent to the office from which the record was received. For an  Illustration: In November, 1905, a man, who gave the name of Charles Adams, was arrested in Lowell, Mass., for larceny, his finger prints were taken, and a copy sent to the office of the Prison Commissioners, Albany, N. Y. In three days a reply was received, showing that the man had been convicted and served three sentences in New York State penal institutions, ranging from six months to four years.

[5]  In re Govinda Reddy, AIR 1958 Mys. 177 it was held that the science of fingerprinting has advanced in a phase of accuracy. It is possible to compare impressions; if they are adequately clear and amplified photography is accessible. Identifying fingerprints with the help of a good magnifying glass is not so difficult, especially when photos of the latent and patent impressions are next to each other. As noted above, the science of identifying fingerprints or thumbs is an exact science and an accused can be sentenced on the evidence of a Finger Print Expert alone.


[6] State v. Conn ,137 Ariz. 148 (1983)

[7]People v. Roach,215 N.Y. 592, 594(N.Y. 1915)

[8]State v. Cerciello, 86 N. J. L. 309

[9]Mohanlal v. Ajitsingh, AIR 1978 SC 1183

[10]Sailendra v. State , AIR 1955 Cal. 247the word “direct” in the section was held by the various High Courts to be merely of a permissive nature and not importing any power to compel the accused to give his fingerprints. “Section 73 of the Indian Evidence Act also empowers the court to direct any person present in the court to give his finger impressions for the purpose of comparison by the court”

[11] “Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 does allow experts’ opinions in certain cases:- Read as follow :-When the court has to form an opinion upon a point of foreign law, or of science, or art, or as to identity of handwriting or finger impression, the opinions upon that point or persons especially skilled in such foreign law, or of science, or art, or as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions are relevant and such persons called as experts.”

[12] State of Bombay Vs. KathiKaluOghad And Others, AIR 1961 SC1808 in this case the Supreme Court held that when a charged person was called upon by court or some other authority holding an examination to give his finger impressions he was not giving any testimony in the nature of a “personal testimony” which must depend upon his volition,” and therefore taking of the finger prints of that person doesn’t violate the  Art. 20 (3) of the Indian constitution.

[13]People v. Sallow, (19I7, Gen. Sess.) i65 N. Y. SupUnder a statute providing “that no person convicted of . . . disorderly conduct . . . shall be sentenced . . . until the finger print records are officially searched ” .The court ordered to take the finger prints from the defendant. The defendant raised a contention that it is infringement of his constitutional protection against self-incrimination. The court held that the, taking of fingerprints isn’t a violation of the constitutional privilege.

[14] State v. Cerciello, 86 N. J. L. 309, it appeared that the defendant while in custody was taken to the office of an expert on finger prints and was there induced, without threats, to sign his name on a sheet of paper, which act incidentally impressed his finger prints upon the sheet. The court admitted this evidence, holding that the act of the defendant which resulted in making the impressions was voluntary; but the court said that a condition on which the testimony is received is that so far as the defendant is concerned, he shall not have involuntarily contributed to its production, so as to cause him in legal effect to serve as a witness against his will to furnish testimony to convict himself under the rule adopted in New Jersey as part of the common law.

[15] In the case of people v. Jennings,, 96 N.E. 1077 (111. 1911) here The accused Thomas Jennings was arrested of murder when four  marks of his left-hand angers found impressively with fresh color on the back of the victim’s home near the window through entry which had been gained. The Chicago Police Department had evacuated newly painted rails. Jennings was identified through the fingerprints by the Chicago Police Board, which was recorded when he was arrested and returned to penitentiary as he violated his parole. After his arrest, his fingerprints were taken again, and along with other evidence, expanded fingerprints were also used as an evidence in his trial. Four expert witnesses were tested to believe that they believed that the impacts on railing were made by Jennings. After the conviction, Jennings filed a complaint, arguing thoroughly that the field of fingerprinting is too novel to hold on to conviction. Court found that the use of fingerprints as evidence was acceptable, as experience shows that they are reliable.

[16] States v. Crisp ,324 F.3d 261, 265 (4th Cir. N.C. 2003),

[17]Parappa v. Bhimappa ,2008 AIHC 2777)

[18]Parker v. The King, 14 C. R. L. (Australia) 681

[19]Jaspalsingh v. State of Punjab. (1980) 1 SCC 487

[20] R v. Babulal,AIR 1928 Bom. 158

[21] State v. Pali ram, 1979 SCC (2) 158

[22]State of U.P. v. Ram Babu Mishra,1980 SCC (2) 343

[23]Mohmood v. State of UP, AIR 1976 SC 69

[24]State of M.P v. Sita Ram 1970 MAD cri LJ 161.

[25] In unexpected calamities mass population gets affected & requires most appropriate & recognizable identification of individuals who lose their lives, for insurance claims by beneficiaries. For this fingerprint is the best technique of identification of disaster victims. Experts in bunches visit such locales relying on fingerprints surveyed how many were dead and how many were injured. Each and every victim is identified by comparing and matching ante moterm and post mortem.

[26] Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 11, No. 1 (May, 1920), pp. 141-143.

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