Physical evidences pertain to objects that establish a crime and aide in producing an effective connection between the perpetrator(s) and victim(s) to the crime itself. They are significant in judicial proceedings in proving the innocence and/or guilt of the defendant(s). These evidences include hair, glass, footprints, weapons, blood, clothes, documents, tool marks, gunpowder residues, paint, soil, drugs and any other object that holds significance to the crime scene or those involved. Physical evidences themselves can be further divided into further classes like the biological and trace evidences.
Physical evidences themselves are of utmost significance. Their importance includes:
- Concludes that a crime has been committed.
- Provides a link between a crime and its victim(s) and the suspect(s).
- Aids in creating a hypothesis of the crime.
- When the chain of custody remains unbroken and all the evidential procedures are carried out, physical evidences may be easily admissible in a court of LAW.
- It is the major factor that differentiates the innocent from the accused.
- In rare cases, where police cannot point out an obvious suspect, these help in identifying possible perpetrators through investigation of the trace and biological evidences.
- It helps in corroborating testimonials during trial.
- It is factual and related to the present circumstances and thus holds more grounds in the court than mere hearsay.
- It helps in creating profiles of the criminals in the police database. This ensures faster action in the future.
- A person possessing a matching set of physical evidence found at the crime scene is deemed a potential suspect.
- It’s key in establishing unique properties to the elements of a crime.
Whatever the kind of evidence may be, it needs to follow certain criteria according to the Constitution of India. Apart from such physical evidences, scientific evidences which include the testimony of professional experts from various scientific and non-scientific backgrounds, are also needed to prove/disprove the authenticity of any evidence collected.
Scientific evidences are based on ethical scientific research and defendable data. The admissibility of a scientific evidence is based on the expert who presents it. This expert is not a witness for the prosecution nor for the defense, but they are a witness of the Court. The use of scientific aids as evidence is sufficient in proving a crime. No further justifications are required. It’s held in higher regard than oral evidence as-
“Witness may and do lie, but circumstances never do”.
Authenticity breeds admissibility i.e. the more authentic the source and nature of an evidence, higher the likelihood of its authenticity. The presentation of such evidence in court is based on certain laws. Legal procedures for ensuring justice in India is based on: –
- Constitution of India (1950)
- Indian Evidence Act (1872)
- Code of Criminal Procedure (1973)
- Indian Penal Code (1860)
LAWS & WITNESS TESTIMONY
- Investigation and the subsequent admission of scientific evidence is key in establishing –’Corpus Delicti’, meaning ‘body of the offence’, which refers to the principle that it must be proved a crime has been committed before a person is convicted for the same.
- Under Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, scientific evidence is accepted in court when submitted, post the opinion of an expert (especially in medico-legal cases). It is considered if they are relevant to foreign law, science, art, identity, handwriting or finger impressions. It states that – ‘When the court has to form an opinion upon a point of foreign law, or science or art, or as to identity of handwriting(or finger impressions), the opinions upon that point of persons specially skilled in such foreign law, science or art,(or in questions as to the identity of handwriting or finger impressions) are relevant facts.
- This opinion must be based on hard proved facts. Otherwise they are inadmissible.
- An exception to the expert opinion law is the Section 47 of IEA, which states- ‘In the event of identification of the handwriting of a person, any person who has been acquainted with the person whose handwriting is in question can give an opinion’.
- Opinion evidence is not sufficient, data evidence (primary evidence) must back it as well.
- In the event where there is a conflict between the eye-witness and opinion witness, then, medical expert testimony supersedes the direct testimony. In Golappa Avana Naik v. State, all the eye-witnesses stated that only one blow was given on the head of the accused. But the medical evidence on record showed that there were 4 external injuries. Hence, court held that the eye-witnesses had not seen the incident and the medical evidence persisted over the eye witness).
- Section 293 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure deals with reports of certain Government scientific experts.
- Section 293(2) says that the Court may, if it thinks fit, summon and examine any such expert as to the subject-matter of his report.
- The Indian Penal Code clarifies that the administration of a poison is a criminal offence whenever it is with intent to kill; with intent to cause serious injury; used recklessly even though there is no intent to kill; used for stupefying, to facilitate a crime such as robbery, rape etc. and to procure an abortion.
- Section 299 :- The punishment for culpable homicide can be any term of imprisonment up to a maximum of life sentence. It states that “Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide”.
- Section 328 :- This section deals specifically with poisons. It states, “Whoever administers to any person any poison, or any stupefying, intoxicating, or unwholesome drug with intent to cause hurt to such person, shall be punished with imprisonment up to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.” The offence under this section is cognizable and non-bailable and is triable by court of session.
- Article 20 (3) :- Privilege against Self- Incrimination. This means that a person cannot be asked to incriminate himself. The privilege to not incriminate self is given to individuals. In the case of State of Bombay v. Kathi Kalu Oghad, a question was raised where if a person is asked to give his specimen handwriting or signature, or impressions of his finger, palm or foot to the investigating officer under Section 73 of the Evidence Act, then does it mean he is being forced to be a witness against himself under Article 20(3) of the Constitution?) The court ruled that since these submissions don’t fall under personal testimony and their true nature cannot be concealed hence, it in no way, violates Article 20(3).
- IPC 37 :- Co-operation by doing one of several acts constituting an offence. When an offence is committed by means of several acts, whoever intentionally co-operates in the commission of that offence by doing any one of those acts, either singly or jointly with any other person, commits that offence. For example:- A and B agree to murder Z = they give doses of poison = Z dies. = A & B intentionally cooperated the commission of murder = equal participants in murder = equal punishment). In such a case, a toxicological report and an expert testimony backing the evidence will make the case foolproof.
- Generally, a finger impression expert’s opinion is important as fingerprints remain the same from their birth till death and no two individuals’ finger print has ever been found to have the same pattern.
- The opinion of a ballistics expert can be taken as a conclusive proof. They can prove that a particular cartridge was fired from a particular pistol.
- A footprint evidence is deemed admissible under Section 45 of the IEA only if the court decides it is relevant to the case at hand due to the ambiguous nature of the law. (Case of Basudeo Gir v. State).
CHILD WITNESS TESTIMONY
There is no age limit for a witness to legally testify in a court of law. All are considered competent unless the court feels there is foul play. In the Indian Penal Code there are 3 laws:-
- Article 20
- Indian Evidence Act,1872 (Section 45 and 112)
- Code of Criminal Procedure, 1972 (Section 53, 194 and 293)
For admissibility : Witness, Exhibit evidences and Forensic investigator’s testimony is required. The Forensic Scientist presents authenticated evidence and the implicated science behind it. The expert and the witness are usually required to give a joint statement regarding the circumstantial evidences and facts circling around the case.
In cases where the witness is a young child, he/she has to give the ‘Voir dire Test’ (That which is true). Their competency is checked through series of questions and corroborating them with the established facts. The test examines the maturity and capability of the witness else a person in his behalf gives a statement which is also checked for validity.
However, after understanding the significance of expert testimony and the laws that make its admissibility possible, there is one Ultimate issue rule that must be kept in mind:-
The role of an expert in any case is to provide the evidence to the Judge. But he cannot try and supersede the Judge. He cannot execute any judicial function. Hence, a witness shouldn’t disturb or modify the ultimate issues in a case.
In conclusion, the expert witness is expected to put before the court all materials inclusive of the date which prompted him to come the conclusion and enlighten the Court on the technical aspects of the case by explaining the terms of science so that the Court although not an expert, may form its own judgement on these materials after giving due regard to the expert’s opinion because once the expert’s opinion is accepted it is not the opinion of the medical officer but that of the Court.
Some cons of the judicial system include–
- The law on expert testimony for scientific evidences is very vague in the India Law. There are no qualification benchmarks set.
- There are major lacks and neglect of the concept of witness protection programs in the Indian judicial system.
- Manipulations and harassments are very common.
- Furthermore, Scientific evidences must be given benefit of the doubt rather than eye-witness accounts due to possibilities of exaggerations and distortions of statements.
- The habit of enforcing an on-scene forensic team and forensic consultations from experts in solving Indian criminal cases are limited if not rare. Much deliberation is required if crime has to be solved at a faster rate in a country with high crime rates.
Hi Guys! Hope you enjoyed this read.
The laws that I have mentioned in this article are some among the many many laws included in the Constitution of India. However, these laws are responsible in making an expert’s testimony and other evidences credible in the court of law. Hopefully, this article helped you all and piqued your interest.