The Identification Of A Person By The Timbre Of His Voice Is Risky In Criminal Trial:SC [Read Judgment]

The Identification Of A Person By The Timbre Of His Voice Is Risky In Criminal Trial:SC [Read Judgment]

The identification of a person by the timbre of his voice is risky in a criminal trial, when the identifying person is not familiar enough with the accused to be able to differentiate between subtle variations in the overtones.’

In a judgment acquitting rape accused concurrently convicted by the high court and trial court, the Supreme Court has observed that identification from the voice of the accused may be possible if there is evidence to show that the witness was sufficiently acquainted with the accused in order to recognize him or her by voice.

In this case (Dola @ Dolagobinda Pradhan vs. State of Odisha), the prosecutrix, in her cross-examination, had stated that she had not clearly seen the face of anyone at the time of occurrence and she could not recognize the persons committing the rape by face, but she could recognize them hearing their voices.

The bench of Justices NV Ramana and Mohan Shantanagoudar referred to some earlier judgments, particularly Inspector of Police vs. Palanisamy that had held that though identification from voice is possible, no evidence had been adduced to show that the witnesses were closely acquainted with the accused to enable voice identification and that too from very short replies.

“Thus, from the above cases we may cull out the principle that identification from the voice of the accused may be possible if there is evidence to show that the witness was sufficiently acquainted with the accused in order to recognize him or her by voice. In the matter on hand, the prosecutrix herself has admitted that there was no acquaintance between the victim and accused. In such a scenario, it would be difficult for us to accept the version of the victim that she recognized the accused from their voice. We reiterate the observations in Kirpal Singh (supra) that the identification of a person by the timbre of his voice is risky in a criminal trial, when the identifying person is not familiar enough with the accused to be able to differentiate between subtle variations in the overtones. In the view of the lack of acquaintance between the prosecutrix and the accused, it will not be safe for us to accept her version regarding the identity of the accused, given the absence of a Test Identification Parade,” the bench said.

The court also observed various inconsistencies in the deposition made by the victim. It also observed that the medical report does not say there were any signs of forcible sexual intercourse. It also observed that the spot where the alleged rape had been committed and the spot from where the victim was forcibly physically lifted by the accused were not deserted places, inasmuch as in the normal course of a day, numerous passersby and vehicles ply there and that it is unlikely that no one had noticed the victim being lifted and subjected to forcible sexual intercourse. It also noted that the victim’s husband’s deposition contradicts the prosecution case. The court also noted that the prosecutrix apparently had the motive to seek revenge against the accused.

“The testimony of the victim is full of inconsistencies and does not find support from any other evidence whatsoever. Moreover, the evidence of the informant/victim is inconsistent and self-destructive at different places,” the bench said observing that the high court has proceeded on the basis of assumptions, conjectures and surmises, inasmuch as such assumptions are not corroborated by any reliable evidence.

Setting aside concurrent convictions and ordering the release of the accused, the bench said: “At best, it may be said that the accused have committed the offence of hurt, for which they have already undergone a sufficient duration of imprisonment, inasmuch as they have been stated to have undergone two years of imprisonment.”

Last week, the same bench headed by Justice NV Ramana had acquitted an accused who was concurrently convicted by the trial court and high court. In that case, one accused has already served the sentence of seven years’ out of the total sentence of 10 years’ imposed upon him by the trial court. His brother, another accused convicted in this case, had already served out the sentence imposed upon him before he could challenge his conviction before the apex court.

Read the Judgment Here