‘Identification’ is the proof in a legal proceeding that a person, document, or other thing is actually that which is alleged to be; it is the evidence of identity. The courts very often determine the identity of persons or things in both civil and criminal proceedings. Identification of the person or the things used in crime provides for the corroborating evidence, facilitating timely trial and further conviction of the accused, meeting the ends of justice. The Test Identification Parade is conducted during the stage of investigation and facilitates the proving or disproving of the guilt or innocence of the accused. The basic idea behind conducting it is to check the truthfulness and the accuracy of the witness, whether the witness who claims to have seen the accused is able to identify it among similar-looking persons or objects.
SANCTITY OF IDENTIFICATION
Indian Evidence Act of 1872 says that the facts which establish the identity of anything or person whose identity is relevant, are relevant in the court of law. However, the evidence as to the identification has to be subjected to close and careful scrutiny by the Court. The evidence of identification should be subjected to the definition of the word ‘proof’ used in Section 3 of the Act and the evidence must satisfy the tests laid down by the Section to be relied upon and be used against the accused. According to Section 54A of CrPC, which was recently inserted via Amendment in 2005 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, when the identification of an accused is necessary for the purpose of the investigation of the crime done by him, the court may direct such person to subject himself to identification, on the request of the officer in charge of the police station, in a manner the Court deems fit. Since the identification of the accused at the Test Identification Parade is not the accused’s own act, it can’t be said to be self-incriminating evidence; hence it is not violative of Article 20(3).
TEST IDENTIFICATION PARADE
There are several techniques like fingerprints, footprints, DNA Sampling, Skull Imposition, comparison of handwriting, etc. are utilized by investigating agencies to identify a person. The method of Test Identification Parade is the most commonly utilized method to recognize the accused by the witness, from among the various unknown and similar-looking persons, whom the witness had seen at the time of occurrence. It is commonly believed that the persons who have experienced the crime are bound to remember certain physical traits of the person who has committed the crime, facilitating their timely arrest and subsequent trial. However, in reality, it has been observed that even the most honest and convincing witnesses can make mistakes in identification, and hence, the identification needs to be subjected to close scrutiny by the courts to meet the ends of justice. The object of conducting a Test Identification Parade is Two-fold. Firstly, to identify the subject matter of the alleged offense or the person concerned in the alleged offense and to check the memory and veracity of the witness. Secondly, to ensure the investigating authority that their investigation is proceeding along the right lines; to verify that the suspect is actually the same person that the witnesses have seen at the crime scene. The utility of the evidence created by the identification parade was explained by the Supreme Court in Ramanthan v. State of Tamil Nadu, where the appellant-accused, whose death sentence was confirmed by the High Court, challenged the decency of the witnesses i.e the deceased’s wife and neighbor, and the identification of the firearm by them, which was allegedly used in the murder. The court opined that “Identification parades have been in common use for a very long time for the object of placing a suspect in a line up with other persons for identification. It enables the investigating officer to ascertain whether the witnesses had really seen the perpetrator of the crime and test their capacity to identify him and thereby to fill the gap in the investigation regarding the identity of the culprit.”
Sri G. Prabhakar, Addl. Judicial Magistrate of First Class, Nandigama in its paper ‘Conduct of the Test Identification Parades for suspects and Property Recovered during Investigation’ has said that: “As per the general rule, an accused cannot demand TIP as a matter of right. But if demanded, it is advisable to not turn down such demand; else the prosecution runs the risk of the veracity of the eyewitnesses being challenged on that ground. The following points are to be taken into consideration to decide on a test of the identification parade:
- The accused is not known to the witness or victim before the occurrence of the crime.
- As to when did the witnesses give a vivid description of the accused- in their statements or in the F.I.R.
- As to when the witnesses say during the examination by the investigating officer that they would be able to recognize some of the criminals?
- When was the accused seen for a sufficient time by the witnesses, that they picked up his distinctive features etc., in order to recollect later on?
- Whether the surrounding circumstances like the condition of light etc., were sufficiently favorable, clearly showing the features of the accused.
- When there were peculiar features with respect to the accused and a mention was made in the FIR or statements etc.”
It needs to be ensured that the Test Identification Parade is carried out at the earliest so that the memory of the witness does not fade away and he can identify the person or property concerned without any difficulty.
EVIDENTIARY VALUE OF TEST IDENTIFICATION PARADE
The value to be attached to the Test Identification Parade depends on the facts and circumstances of each case and no hard & fast rule can be laid down. Identification of an accused in a court of law is a substantive piece of evidence. Whereas, evidence of identification in test identification parade though is primary evidence but is not substantive and the same can be used only to corroborate the identification of the accused by the witness in the court of law. Another important point to be noted is that the identification of the accused, by the witness, in the court of law would only be admissible if the court finds it trustworthy. The evidence of the Test Identification Parade is not a substantive piece of evidence but can be used for corroboration or contradiction. Evidence of Identification is weak evidence and it would be unsafe to rely upon it solely for upholding the conviction.
“The relevant factors to be taken into consideration in the identification are:
- Whether there was any opportunity for the witness to see the accused at the time of the incident.
- Whether the witness could remember the witness by face.
- Whether the witness had such memory to identify the accused before the court”.
It is very important to ensure that the identification is held as early as possible after the arrest of the accused for the reason that the impression in the mind of the witness may fade in course of time; moreover, it eliminates the possibility of the accused being shown to the witness before the TIP. Whenever there is a delay in holding a Test Identification Parade, the prosecution needs to explain it, as a lack of reasonable explanation will detract from the value of the test. Identification has to be done under the supervision of the Magistrate. This eliminates any suspicion of fairness and reduces the chances of testimonial error as the Magistrate is expected to take all possible precautions. If it is made before the police or in the vicinity of the police, it won’t be admissible for corroboration, as per Section 162 CrPC.
Though the identification by the investigating agencies is done through a variety of techniques such as fingerprints, footprints, comparison of handwriting, etc., the method of Test Identification Parade is the most commonly utilized. It should, however, be noted that it has only corroborative value and is not a substantial piece of evidence. It plays an indispensable role in the investigation. It not only checks the veracity of the witnesses but also assures the investigating authorities that their investigation is going in the right direction. The actual Identification has to be done in court, which is a substantial piece of evidence.
Author(s) Name: Mahi Ghai (Panjab University, Chandigarh)
 S.R Myneni, Law of Evidence (3rd Edition, Asia Law House 2019).
 Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 9.
 Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 3.
 Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, s 54A
 Constitution of India 1950, art. 20(3)
 Ramanthan v State of Tamil Nadu (1978) 3 SCC 86
 Devika Sharma, ‘Rules and Principles of Identification under Criminal Justice System’ (SCC Online) <https://www.scconline.com/post/2020/08/20/rules-and-principles-of-identification-under-criminal-justice-system/?amp> accessed 09 October 2022
 Sri G. Prabhakar, ‘Conduct of the Test Identification Parades for suspects and Property Recovered during Investigation’ (Districts Ecourts) <https://districts.ecourts.gov.in/sites/default/files/Third%20Topic_1.pdf > accessed 09 October, 2022
 Sri G. Bhupal Reddy, ‘Conduct of the Test Identification Parades for suspects and Property Recovered during Investigation’ (Districts Ecourts) <https://districts.ecourts.gov.in/sites/default/files/Third%20Topic_1.pdf> accessed 09 October 2022
 Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, The Law of Evidence (24th Edition, Lexis Nexis 2016)
 Criminal Procedure Code 1873, s 162