The legal position of Voice identification in India

With the advanced developments in the scientific world and technology there arises the need for the legal universe to take far-sighted approach in delivering and imparting justice. Sound Spectrogram was first developed by Alexander Melville Bell who penned the visual representation of the spoken words and sentences. It was based on the pronouncements made by the speakers while making conversation, it was based on the theory that there were differences on how different individuals spoke. The Voice Identification test or the speaker recognition test also termed as voice fingerprinting can said to be boon to the criminal jurisprudence. If cautioned with care and diligence it can be utilized as an effective tool in finding the criminal behind the black mask. The technology dates back to decades which believes and establishes that due to the different acoustic patterns including both anatomy and behavioral pattern a person’s spectrogram differs from one to another. The acoustic scientists used this technology to identify the voices of their enemy during the World War II.

The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, primarily dealt with the oral and documentary evidence     but after the incorporation of the amendments according to the passing of the Information Technology Act, 2000 there has been an admissibility of the conversation or statement recorded in an electro-magnetic device.

There are a plethora of judicial pronouncements forming important discussions as to the admissibility of tape recorded conversation, a form of voice identification. The first case which came to the Indian Judiciary regarding the admissibility of tape recorded conversations was Rupchand v. Mahabir Prasad[1] the Honourable Apex Court allowed the admissibility of the same under Section 155(3) of the Evidence Act, 1872 to shake the credit of the witness.

Early in the year 1964, a case came to the Court regarding the admissibility of the tape recorded conversation, S. Pratap Singh v. State of Punjab[2], where it was held that the tape recorded evidence are admissible as evidence and merely the fact that it can be tampered with does not make it inadmissible as there are hardly or no piece of evidence which cannot be tampered with, for e.g. even the photographs can be tampered by the use of trick photography, it does not mean that photographs in toto will not be admissible in any of the cases.

Since there are a set of cautions which needs to be adhered to while taking the voice recognition as a piece of evidence to detect the criminal, the Apex Court in the case of Yusufalli Esmail Nagree v. State of Maharashtra[3] which was a case under Section 165-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860, presently under Section 7, 11 and 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the entire conversation between the accused and the complainant was tape recorded. The Supreme Court laid down a set of principles to be followed in instances where tape recorded conversations has to be made admissible as evidence. Firstly, the tape recording will be admissible under Section 8 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Secondly, the recorded conversation may be procured without the knowledge of the accused but it should not have been procured by duress or coercion or any type of force and the same was protected under Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India, which states that ‘No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself’ and most importantly the Court must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the recording has not been tampered at all.

It has been a common practice in cases arising under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 to send the complainant with the tape recorder to collect the evidence to penalize the offender. In the case of Mahabir Prasad v. Surinder Kaur[4] the Supreem court pondered about the degree and level of admissibility to be attributed to the evidentiary value of tape recorded conversations. The Court after having given much demanded serious thought stated that the tape recorded conversations can only be used as corroborative evidences of the conversations made by any of the parties.

[1] AIR 1970 Punjab 173.

[2] AIR 1964 SC 72.

[3]AIR 1968 SC 147.

[4] AIR 1982 SC 1043.

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