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Evidence of Tattoo marks: Is it reliable?

Tattoos became a new trend these days. We are seeing in our daily life that many of us have passion to print the tattoos on our body parts. From celebrities to normal people, many persons are interested to have tattoos on their body.

In this article, Let us examine how a person or dead body can be identified by tattoos in cases before court or police and thereby how this identification of tattoo can be helpful in solving a case. There are many circumstances that court had come across where the identification of a person or a dead body through tattoo is important in deciding a case. Let us look few famous decisions and try to understand the concept.

As per Indian Evidence Act, 1872 the section 9 explains the provision with respect to facts necessary to explain or introduce the relevant facts. Further this section states the concept of identification of a person or a thing etc., which establishes the relation. The identification of a person or a thing may also be in the form of tattoo.

In this famous case of Shanker Mahto v. State of Bihar[1], There was one dead body which was recovered from the river by police. Later, the question raised in our Supreme Court with respect to the identification of the dead body which was very crucial. Basing on this, the court would determine how the death occurred to the deceased. In depth, the question was with respect to identification by means of tattoo marks present on the arms of the deceased.

According to the medical evidence given by the medical expert, the body was found very badly decomposed and there were no tattoo marks on it and also postmortem report also suggested that when the body was recovered and it was very badly decomposed. In this case there is crucial evidence given by the daughter of the deceased who identified her mother by means of tattoo marks present on the dead body.

Moreover, such identification of tattoo marks was not identified by any doctor or postmortem report. Up to high court level, the evidence of daughter was disbelieved. But, the Supreme Court applied some logic and accepted this evidence and held that the evidence of the daughter can be accepted because the report did not say that the body was badly decomposed at the time of recovery itself.

Tattoo marks may disappear:

Sometimes, tattoo marks may be disappear if the pigment used is vermilion or ultra-marine and it if has not penetrated deep into the skin. This has been explained in Modi's Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology (at page 29 of Seventh Reprint of Twenty-first Edition). In this above case,[2] the high court considered these points but not believed the evidence given by the daughter of diseased later Supreme Court altered the case.

General identification in Investigations / Inspections:

In Joginder @ Danny and another v State (NCT of Delhi) case[3], The crime team identified that the two headless bodies were found, one of them was near Real Polymer factory, Bahadhurgarh which was identified to be of Vijay Kumar Swami on the basis of height, body and tattoo on his hand and photograph of the spot were taken.

Sometimes it may lead to establish the chain of prosecution story:
In the case of Manjunatha v State of Karnataka[4], the dead body of the deceased was recovered near Avathi railway track without head as per the evidence of father of the deceased who gave complaint before the Police. The deceased went to attend his job and in the evening, he had received a telephone call from one bus Conductor that his son is going in the bus along with the Police in connection with the case pertaining to accused. Immediately, father of deceased tried to contact the deceased, but he was unable to contact him as the cell phone was switched off.

Later, by next date, he has contacted accused through mobile phone, where accused told that he has gone back to the jail. Thereafter, he came to know that a dead body was found near Avathi railway track. He and his family members went to the spot and saw the dead body without head and he has identified the same as of his son by looking to the tattoo mark of Shivalinga in the hand of the deceased. Thereafter, he lodged a complaint to the Police.

The Police registered a case, sent the dead body to the Post-mortem examination. Doctor, who conducted Post-mortem examination, has given evidence and Post-mortem examination report that the deceased died homicidal death. The Dead body was found without head and the head was separated from the dead body and there is no much cross-examination in respect of the death of the deceased by homicidal death.

The Deputy Director of F.S.L. also examined the viscera of the deceased and he has not found any poisonous substance in viscera of the deceased. Therefore, the evidence of all the above persons are corroborate with each other in respect of the deceased met with homicidal death. Thereby, the prosecution established the homicidal death of the deceased in this case. Hence, we can see the importance of the identification of tattoo marks in case where it turned out to be some crucial evidences and lead to establish the prosecution stories.

Person who made tattoo can also be produced as evidence:

In Shailendra v State of Madhya Pradesh[5], There were three boys along with the deceased in the room, but identity of the present petitioner could not be established by the prosecution. Only one person Rajendra, who had been called for making tattoo, has identified and has stated that the petitioner was in the room. Irrespective of the decision, in the prosecution relied on the sole of evidence of the person who made tattoo.

Hence, thereby we can conclude that the evidence of tattoo marks have sufficient evidentiary value and crucial role to identify the person. This identification will helpful to reveal the many unknown facts and may lead to establish the prosecution story completely. In some cases, it is suggestible that the tattoo identification evidence needs to be very accurate and reasonable otherwise because there are chances that may occur where evidence may be disbelieved easily because human body may be decomposed easily and tattoos may be permanent or temporary in few cases.

  1. Shanker Mahto v. State of Bihar , AIR 2002 SC 2857
  2. Id.
  3. Joginder @ Danny and another v State (NCT of Delhi) case, 2018 Indlaw DEL 4818
  4. Manjunatha v State of Karnataka , 2019 Indlaw KAR 11544
  5. Shailendra v State of Madhya Pradesh, 2018 Indlaw MP 4012

Written by Kadimisetty Sai Sreenadh, Final year student of BA., LLB (Hons.) at Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam.
Email: [email protected] 

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