Judicial Developments towards acceptance of Voice Identification in Criminal Jurisprudence

Nowadays, the Speaker recognition has been used in telecom services as well as for security purposes. The new test of voice identification is also used in banking services for identity verification of the customers. The science of voice identification has travelled a string of changes way back from the times it was first introduced. However, its applicability, admissibility and significance are a few points which warrant detailed discussions which the blog shall elaborately deal with the help of judicial developments.

In the case of Pratap Singh v. State of Punjab[1] it was held that slightest doubt of tampering with the tape recorded conversation would reject the evidentiary value of the same in its entirety. In Ziyauddin Burhanuddin Bukhari v. Brijmohan Ramdas Mehta[2] the Apex Court while interpreting Section 159 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 stated that the recorded conversations can also be used in order to refresh memory.

After the passing of the Information Technology Act, 2000 the position of Section 3, the definition of Evidence stands amended and clause (2) reads as follows ‘all documents including electronic records produced for the inspection of the Court; such documents are called documentary evidence’. After such an amendment, there was an important question to be answered. The information stored on electronic device would be primary or secondary? The tape recorded conversations will be regarded as substantive evidence or corroborative evidence?

The Apex Court in the cases of N. Sri Rama Reddy v. V.V. Giri[3], R.K. Malkani v. State of Maharashtra[4] and in the case of Ziyauddin Burhanuddin Bukhari v. Brijmohan Ramdas Mehta[5] held that the tape recorded conversation similar to other documents are primary and direct evidence and when the Court allows the tape recorded conversation to be played in the Court it cannot be confined to the utility of corroboration only but can also be proved as substantive evidence in absence of any tampering subject to the provisions of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. After the above cited judicial pronouncements it can be established as a well settled rule of law that tape recorded conversations being primary and direct evidences can be used to authenticate what was told by a particular person at a given time.

According to the judgments given by the Honourable Courts in the Landmark Judicial pronouncements it can be stated that apart from being documentary evidence voice, recorded conversations can also be given in the following Sections of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

  1. Sub-section (1) of Section 146-‘to test the veracity of the witness being cross-examined.
  2. Exception (2) of Section 153-‘in contradicting the witness’
  3. Sub-section (3) of Section 155-‘to prove his former statements inconsistent with any part of his evidence which can be contradicted.’

Steps taken to educate regarding Voice Identification:

Innovative and encouraging steps have been taken to include the beneficial aspects of voice recognition in criminal jurisprudence. The training of police officers by including a study of voice identification in Forensic Science subject has been undertaken by the Karnataka Police Academy. [6] Such steps are much required to be taken as at times, the only clue or the hint left with the police to identify the wrong doer is the voice as in the cases of kidnapping, bomb threat or any unknown callers. Voice identification Techniques are regularly conducted at Chandigarh Forensic Science Laboratories, there is a facility of Voice analysis facility at SRC Institute of Speech and Hearing, Bangalore, the All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, Mysore has been working and advancing in this area since a decade and has also expressed its plan to start a one-year PG Diploma course in forensic voice analysis.[7]

However, the boldness which the Indian Judiciary has shown in accepting the Voice Identification as corroborative evidence and also substantive evidence in few exceptional cases is worth appreciating and applauding. The Forensic science has a long way to go and the intertwined relationship between forensic science and criminal judicial administration has once again been established and accepted.

[1] AIR 1964 SC 72.

[2] AIR 1986 Sc 1788.

[3] AIR 1971 Sc 1162.

[4] AIR 1973 SC 157.

[5] AIR 1975 SC 1788.

[6] Forensic Science Law, Sarita Jhand, New Era Law Publications, 2017, pp. 401.

[7] Id, pp. 485.

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