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Admissibility And Significance Of Expert Evidence In Dog Tracker Evidence

Within Chapter-II of the Indian Evidence Act, Sec. 45 to Sec. 51 includes the importance of third-party opinions, which are generally referred to as expert opinions in our everyday practice. These laws are unique in existence to the general principle that only the details which are well within the awareness of a witness are to be supplied with proof.

The anomaly is founded on the notion that the Court cannot, without the expertise of individuals who have gained specialized expertise and skills in such matters, formulate an opinion on the subject that are technically complex and formally sophisticated.

The validity of specialist proof in respect to tracker dog conduct and the reliability of their detection throughout criminal trials can be far from clear, especially if adequate grounds are not laid for it to be accessible to the judgment maker to assert faith in the reliability of the dog's recognition of a person or of an individual-related object.

A significant feature of police criminal investigation is the involvement of trained tracking dogs to detect fragrances[i] and follow traces of those. Such proof, though, is just as good as the information that confirms the accuracy of the abilities of a tracking dog and proven performance trends.[ii]

A crucial challenge attached to expert proof in regard to tracking dog behavior in claiming to correctly pursue a scent is the difficulty of understanding what constitutes the reasoning mechanisms of the dog when it appears to be following its quarry:
A dog has no means of evaluating its 'evidence.' He does not notify us whether he acts on a combination of probability or on a prevalence of chances, much less if he merely plays a game.[iii] Concern about these kinds of facts tends to raise questions about the dangers that are significantly dependent on such proof attached to convictions.[iv]

Dog Tracking in Indian Scenario:
The Indian power institution for dog tracker proof has not been uniform. It was observed in Dafedar v State of Maharashtra [v] that there are three allegations that are typically raised towards [dog tracking proof] being obtained.

First of all, and it is evident that the dog cannot go into the box to give his testimony on pledge, and therefore submit oneself to cross-examination, the human partner of the dog will have to go into the box and document the proof of the dog, but this is obviously hearsay. Secondly, there is also the impression that the life and liberty of an individual being does not rely on canine assumptions in criminal matters.

In Shaikh v State of Maharashtra [vi] in 1993, though, where a tracker dog, Kumar, found the suspect's bags and clothes and led the police to the suspect's home, the legitimacy of such proof was thoroughly investigated and there was a more responsive stance to the evidence.

In this particular instance, as in the scenario of any other proof, it was stated that the tracker dog's proof must pass the test of investigation and dependability.

It is important to bear in mind the established principles:
  1. An accurate and complete documentation of the exact way wherein the track was conducted shall be given and a panchnama shall be clear and unambiguous in view of the dog tracking facts. It will have to be proven correctly and will have to be backed by the handler's proof
  2. No contradictions can occur between both the versions as reported in the panchnama and the handler's proof as submitted to the Court.
  3. The handler's proof would be required to pass the cross-examination test separately.
  4. The trainer would have to bring some information before the court, such as the method of learning provided to the dog, its past results, accomplishments, loyalty, etc., accompanied, if possible, by records. In a murder case, the footwear and the weapon were spotted near the incident spot. In order to retain the original fragrance, both items were enclosed in a folder. In twenty four hours, the detection procession was held and the police dog quickly picked up the two accused amongst the individuals in the procession after smelling the footwear and the weapon. It was claimed that the proof given by the dog was adequate to connect the accused with those two things.

Nevertheless, following Dafedar and Ramesh, the Apex Court stated in Borthakur v State of Assam[vii] "that the statute in this name establishes that although the assistance of a sniffer dog may even be obtained for the reason of an inquiry, its powers may not be presented as proof for the intention of building the conviction of an accused."[viii]

The question posed before the Apex Court in Abdul Razak V. State of Maharashtra [ix] is whether the proof of dog detection is permissible as proof and if so will that evidence would be considered on a level with that of scientific professionals. The Court stated that the testimony of the tracking dog trainer is valid and permissible in testimony, but that proof cannot be viewed at the same level as the proof of blood or substances tested by science experts.

Blood and chemical reactions should not be associated with the behavior of a dog, which is also an advanced species with multiple thinking patterns close to living creatures' thought patterns. There is indeed a chance of error and deceit while the mechanism of reasoning is concerned. The Supreme Court makes the law evident by specifying the rule that the proof of dog tracking is permissible, but not typically of considerable weight and not at the same degree as the evidence of science experts.

Baldeviji Vajaji v State of Gujarat [x] (25 March 2014)

The deceased Jashubhai, in other words, was a colleague of the accused-appellants. In general, they were interested in the honey collection and sales sector. The victim had obtained from the accused a total of Rs.1,000/-. The victim was invited to his residence by the initial defendant No. 1 for the intention of clearing the transactions for the selling of honey. Accordingly, the accused number 2 came to the home of the victim at evening and requested the victim to go with him to the residence of the accused number 1.

Therefore in the presence of the accused no. 2, the victim left the house saying that they would be going to the residence of the accused no. 1 to resolve the transactions. They departed jointly and both of the convicted individuals conducted the murder of the victim by strangling him to death. The defendant No.2 also caused wounds on the intimate parts of the victim because the victim had unlawful relations with the accused's No.2 sister and the victim had unlawful connections with the suspect's sister.

Then the sibling of the victim filed a FIR and claimed that the victim was in the presence of the accused No. 2 on the prior day, yet both left for the residence of the accused No. 1 along. At about 7 o'clock in the evening, the victim's brother discovered that the lifeless body of a man lay naked near the rail track and belonged to his brother.

He also claimed that he discovered that there were wounds to his brother's face and neck when he reached the spot where the dead person was laying, and there were wounds to his brother's intimate parts with some object. Accordingly, the sniffer dog tracker method was resorted to and the dog tracked the authorities to the accused�s residence where the clothes of the stained with blood that matched with victim�s blood group were also found.

Court�s Ruling:
A heavy reliance was placed on the landmark judgments where dog tracking evidence was put into question and time and again the courts have rejected this evidence. The court noted that it is a very poor scrap of information and does not encourage any trust in the current context. It was mentioned that it is not possible to eliminate the probability of a dog misinterpreting the scent or misconstruing the path, or that such errors have occurred several times.

The first of them is the probability of mistake on the role of the dog or its owner. On its heels, the likelihood of confusion between both the dog and its owner is near. It was not possible to deny the probability of a mischaracterization or a false conclusion from the dog's behaviour. The last, but not least, is the reality that there is very little expertise and much confusion from a scientific viewpoint as to the specific capabilities that allow sniffer dogs to detect and recognize offenders.

On the other hand in criminal cases, tracker dog testimony can be highly powerful, but if not closely investigated for the validity of its foundations, it could be more harmful than it is relevant to the case. Although the courts originally voiced strong misgivings about the receipt of such proof, the courts have become somewhat more sensitive to it in the modern period, other than in India given that the requisite support for the proof of the dog trainer is correctly formed.

There is a reasonably uniform global position, with perhaps the exception of India, with regard to the conditions in which tracking dog proof against an accused individual may be accepted. First it is necessary to properly determine the credentials of the dog handler, and then proof must be provided in relation to the actions and abilities of the specific tracker dog.

Detailed basic proof of the accuracy of the breed of dog and of the abilities and performance of the particular dog as a detector must be given before proof can be properly obtained from a dog-handler of the specific detection of a smell by a particular dog. Courts have to be aware of the learning of the dog about its identification survival rates and its resistance to diversion, such as insignificant scents, animals, or other pets.

The trainer must be able to provide clear proof of the method, duration and result of the monitoring, ideally accompanied by notes collected at the same time, as described in Dafedar v State of Maharashtra, as the actual origin of the evidence, may not be subjected to the normal control and stability of the judicial system.

  1. Castaldo NF. Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (And their Noses) Save the World, Houghton Miffin Harcourt. 2014
  2. Eden P. The Long Paw of the Law: The Admissibility of Tracker Dog Evidence or When a Police Dog�s Bark is Worse than his Bite. 1995
  3. Ian Frenkelton, Admissibility and probative value of expert evidence of tracker dog scent identification, <> last accessed on 6th November 2020.
  4. Marks A. Why Reliance on Sniffer Dog Evidence May Throw Us Off Scent in Trials. The Guardian. 12 May 2009
  5. Dafedar v State of Maharashtra (1969) 2 SCC 234; AIR 1970 SC 283.
  6. Shaikh v State of Maharashtra, 1993 (3) BomCR 309, 1993 CriLJ 2808, 1993 (2) MhLj 1118
  7. Borthakur v State of Assam, (2008) 5 SCC (Cri) 697; 2008 (2) RCR (Crl) 712; 2008(3) RAJ 63
  8. Kuri v State of Uttar Pradesh (2014) 11 SCC 129
  9. AIR 1970 SC 283
  10. Baldeviji Vajaji v State of Gujarat CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 606 of 2007 with CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 763 of 2007

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