14 Feb 2010

Identification Parades: The principles restated

In a recent decision the Supreme Court has threadbare examined the earlier decisions to cull out the principles governing the manner of conduct of identification parade and the admissibility of evidence from such parades conducted during investigation to determine the liability of the accused. The Supreme Court declared the law as under;

30) In another case of Pramod Mandal v. State of Bihar, 2004 (13) SCC 150, placing reliance on the case of Anil Kumar (supra), this Court observed that it is neither possible nor prudent to lay down any invariable rule as to the period within which a Test Identification Parade must be held, or the number of witnesses who must correctly identify the accused, to sustain his conviction. These matters must be left to the Courts of fact to decide in the facts and circumstances of each case. If a rule is laid down prescribing a period within which the Test Identification Parade must be held, it would only benefit the professional criminals in whose cases the arrests are delayed as the police have no clear clue about their identity, they being persons unknown to the victims. They therefore, have only to avoid their arrest for the prescribed period to avoid conviction. Similarly, there may be offences which by their very nature may be witnessed by a single witness, such as rape. The offender may be unknown to the victim and the case depends solely on the identification by the victim, who is otherwise found to be truthful and reliable. What justification can be pleaded to contend that such cases must necessarily result in acquittal because of there being only one identifying witness? Prudence therefore demands that these matters must be left to the wisdom of the courts of fact which must consider all aspects of the matter in the light of the evidence on record before pronouncing upon the acceptability or rejection of such identification.
31) The identification parades are not primarily meant for the Court. They are meant for investigation purposes. The object of conducting a test identification parade is twofold. First is to enable the witnesses to satisfy themselves that the accused whom they suspect is really the one who was seen by them in connection with the commission of the crime. Second is to satisfy the investigating authorities that the suspect is the real person whom the witnesses had seen in connection with the said occurrence. 
32) Therefore, the following principles regarding identification parade emerge:

(1) an identification parade ideally must be conducted as soon as possible to avoid any mistake on the part of witnesses;
(2) this condition can be revoked if proper explanation justifying the delay is provided; and
(3) the authorities must make sure that the delay does not result in exposure of the accused which may lead to mistakes on the part of the witnesses.

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