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The Supreme Court on 2nd August 2019 held a judicial magistrate can direct an accused to provide his voice samples for investigation even without his consent.

A CJI-led three judges bench resolved the 2012 split verdict of Ritesh Sinha v State of Uttar Pradesh where right to privacy locked horns with modern investigation techniques.

The 2012 Division Bench judgment was inconclusive due to dissent on important questions of law. Based on the 87th Law commission report recommending amendment of the  Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 on grounds, inter alia, that voice prints resemble finger prints, Justice Ranjana P Desai had held that a Magistrate acting under Section 5 of the Prisoners Act can give a direction to any person to give his voice sample for the purposes of any investigation or proceeding under the Code.

Dissenting Justice Aftab Alam had pointed out, “on the question of compelling the accused to give voice sample, the law must come from the legislature and not through the court process. First, because the compulsion to give voice sample does in some way involve an invasion of the rights of the individual and to bring it within the ambit of the existing law would require more than reasonable bending and stretching of the principles of interpretation. Secondly, if the legislature even while making amendments in the Criminal Procedure Code, aimed at strengthening the investigation, as late as in 2005, is oblivious to something as obvious as this and despite express reminders chooses not to include voice sample either in the newly introduced explanation to section 53 or in sections 53A, and 311A, then it may even be contended that in the larger schemes of things the legislature is able to see something which perhaps the Court is missing.”

The matter was hence referred to a larger bench.

Today’s judgment is a breakthrough in criminal investigative process. Section 5 of the Prisoners Act enables Magistrate to order recording of measurements or photograph of a person for purposes of any investigation. ‘Measurement’ is defined in Section 2(f) of the Act to include finger impressions and foot-print impressions. Court has said inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution should be invoked to confer such power on the Magistrate, hence adding voice in the interpretation of ‘measurement’ in the absence of specific provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure.

— India Legal Bureau

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