FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)

Recent advance in forensic Science has raised the probative value of 'Expert Evidence'. The various contrastive methods have turned the 'Expert Opinion' from "mere opinion" to "SCIENTIFIC PROOFS" which can well be seen, verified and judged by the Hon'ble Courts. A time has come when the high 'prejudices, about 'Expert Opinion and Evidence' as found in various courts judgments of the past will have to give place to the appreciation of the "Scientific work" done by an expert witness, no matter whether he appears for prosecution or for the defence or for one party or the other, in any legal proceedings. Formerly when the "Forensic Science" had not reached the progressive stage as it has reached, certain things, in the chain of evidence were undoubtedly missed, while others, not missed could have been made much stronger.

While original documents are preferred, we can work with photocopies, if they are of good quality. A Forensic Document Examiner would prefer always to examine original documents but there is rarely the case, we receive original documents. In this day and age of electronics it is a challenge to determine the origin of the documents received. In most cases the origin of the document is not in question but the authenticity of the signature scribed. Even when you have access to an original signature, if you were to copy and paste that signature into the document, there are details that will give the attempt to forgery away.

You can generally give an opinion with as little as 2 or 3 samples, but more samples and close to the date of the questioned signature, is always better.

All forensic document examiners have to qualify each time in a court of law by decision of the judge. Once the court accepts an expert's qualifications, their opinions are admissible as evidence under section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1960.

Handwriting analysis studies personality traits, where a document examiner uses scientific methods to evaluate handwriting for forensic purposes. There two different fields.

It depends on the case. Magnification is almost always used, whether with a computer program or a stereo microscope. We also use photography, and various lighting and measuring techniques and equipment.

One who studies for a two-year period under the tutelage of a mentor, recognized as an expert in the field; the discipline of handwriting analysis and document examination with a scientific approach, then applying that science to law.

Deciding if a Signed Document has been Forged is the task of a Judge. Providing the evidence for that decision is the task of Handwriting Expert or Forensic Document Examiner.

Evidence that one signature on a Legal Document is a Forgery makes the whole document invalid.

A document could be disputed on more than one count and it is not possible to lay down exactly any general rule regarding them. A genuineness of the signature or body writing of the document is one of the most common problems involving identification in a disputed document. To add to this sequence of writing and signature, identification of ink, age of document, erasures etc. are also various factors, which are involved either in combination or singly. Whenever a document is disputed particularly in respect of handwriting there arises the necessity of known writing called the "STANDARDS". For comparison the 'Standards' could be:- (1) Writing or signatures made in usual course of business and (2) Writing or signatures made of the request or dictation etc. The correctness of the opinion would much depend on the proper standards made available for comparison. The "Best standards' could be those which are (1) made in usual course of business (2) extended over length of period (3) as far as possible post litem mortem of the disputed (4) of the same class. If however, the above kind of writing or signatures are not available then request writings or writings made to dictation could also serve the purpose.

There are various characteristics, which describe a particular handwriting and each individual normally has his own handwriting characteristics, which persist in normal circumstances throughout his writing, of course within the range of 'normal variation'. Some of the main handwriting characteristics could be mentioned as (1) Speed, (2) Slant, (3) Spacing, (4) Shading, (5) Size, (6) Style,(7) Pen position, (8) Pen lifts, (9) Pen pressure, (10) Pictorial effect, (11) Proportion of letters, [12] Movement, [13] Alignment, [14] Line quality [15] Formation of letters etc, which are looked in identification of handwriting. Of course all these characteristics may not be relevant in each and every case of handwriting identification. The value of these characteristics depends on each and every case independently.

  • A person can not make two signatures mathematically identical/ exactly alike. If the two signatures are found to be super imposing over each other then one of them or both of them could be traced forgeries.
  • Similarly a person cannot write better than his normal skill.
  • The disputed and the comparatives should always be in same script.
Normally signatures should be compared with signatures and the writings should be compared with writings. However, if signature is in writing style then in such cases the signatures can be compared with the writings.

There are various scientific ways of examining the documents depending on the problem involved in each case.

  • Reflected light examination:This is the most formal type of examining the documents. In this case, the document is examined with the help of various types of magnifying lenses in normal light.

  • Transmitted light examination:In this case the light is passed through the document. The document is held against the source of light, by which the light passes through the document. This kind of examination of the document is done while examining the traced forgeries, erasures etc.

  • Side light Examination: In this type of examination the light is passed from one side, parallel to the surface of paper. If there is any erasure on the document disturbing the fibres of the surface of the paper, it can be easily detected with the help of side light examination.

  • Ultra Violet Rays Examination:Whenever there is any alleged chemical erasure in any document, the Ultra Violet Rays examination is of immense help to determine whether there is any chemical erasure.

For convenience sake the forgeries could be classified as follows:

  • Merely signing the name or putting the name of a person without making any attempt to show any similarity with the genuine signature of that person.
  • Forging signature by copying or simulating the genuine signature either with the help of a studying the model or from memory.
  • Forging the signatures by tracing with the help pencil outline carbon outlines or indentation or directly tracing by putting over a genuine signature.
  • Stamp lifting. Many times, the signatures appear either on one or two revenue stamps. In such cases, the stamps affixed on the original documents are lifted/removed from that document and are affixed to any other documents.
  • Using genuine signature on a blank paper: In such cases, the signature of a person already appears on the blank paper and body writing or a text of the document is subsequently written.

The signatures mentioned under item no.2 above are generally classified as "Simulated or Copied forgeries.

The signatures mentioned under item no.3 are called "Traced forgeries".

Each kind of forgery has its own characteristics and therefore the disputed signatures first should be examined by themselves to see whether they show any inherent sign of forgery or genuineness and then can be compared them with the standard signatures to find out whether they agree in their handwriting characteristics pointing to the same writer or otherwise.

The identification of typewritten matter also fallswithin the purview of the expert, though it may be seen that typewriters particularly of the same make and model are likely to give the same impression, still in actual practice it has been proved that the individual typewriters have individual characteristics in their impressions either due to the defect in manufacturing process or due to wear and tear which develops peculiar defects individual to each typewriter.

As such, in anonymous letters where the typewriting is one of the common sources, the examination of the material is likely to lead to positive results. So, also in cases of typewritten additions and interpolations, there have been various cases where the identification of typewritten matter has played great part in the Law Courts.

Many a times, the question of identification of ink on the written document or additions or alterations or erasures are likely to be involved in a disputed document. There are various methods by which the inks could be identified or distinguished. The Ultra Violet Rays also play an important part in the identification of ink, erasures etc. Similarly papers could also be identified and distinguished by the chemical examination of fibres, sizing, thickness, colour etc. The identification or inks and papers in a disputed document plays an important part in determining the genuineness or otherwise of a disputed document.

Similarly the lead of a pencil can be microscopically examined to ascertain about the similarity or dissimilarity of the pencil used in the two writings.

In India, the percentage of literacy being very small, the most common problems of the execution of a document centre round the thumb impression, which is put on it either as executants or as a witness. The science of finger prints admittedly being perfect and very accurate, positive opinion could be expressed, about the identity or non identity of the finger impressions, no matter whether the impression is of a thumb, right or left or of any other finger. The identifying characteristics of a finger print are nature made and once they develop, they are not liable to change or vary in their identifying value till the skin decomposes. However, in spite of the Science of Finger Impressions being accurate each case may have its own limitation due to the impression being blurred or partly printed or due to any other reasons. The photos and micro photo enlargements have greatly helped in solving many complicated problems in the branch of Finger prints.

Broadly speaking patterns of finger prints are divided into four main types:- (l) Arches (2) Loops (3) Whorls and (4) Composites. These are also further subdivided from the identification and classification point of view.

(1) The type of pattern (2) Core (3) Delta (4) Ridge counting (5) Ridge tracing (6) Ridge characteristics (Ridge characteristics are the endings of ridges, fork or bifurcation, dot, island etc.) Whenever specimen thumb impressions are required to be taken for purposes of comparison, it is advisable to take them as fully rolled impressions with printer's ink (as is used in Sub-Registrar's office) on plain white paper. At least three to four impressions be obtained. Along with the rolled impressions, plain impressions may also obtain to facilitate comparison. Where it is not certain as to which finger or thumb the disputed impression belongs, it is advisable to take impression of all the ten fingers and then marked properly as of right or left hand.