A document is a piece of written, printed or electronic matter that provides information or evidence or that conveys some information.
Both Indian Evidence Act and Indian Penal Code define documents.
Section 3 of Indian Evidence Act (I) of 1872
A document may be defined as under:- “Document means any matter expressed or described upon any substance by means of letters, figures or marks or by more than one of those means, indented to be used or which may be used for purpose or recording that matter.”
Section 29 Indian Penal Code
The word “document” denotes any matter expressed or described upon any substance by means of letters, figures, or marks, or by more than one of those means, intended to be used, or which may be used, as evidence of that matter.
A document is said to be questioned if its origin, contents, authorship, etc arouse suspicion as to it genuineness. A questioned document is any document that is potentially disputed in the court of law.
Basically, a Questioned Document refers to any signature, handwriting, typewriting whose source or authenticity is in dispute or doubtful. Questioned writings / signatures are marked by red pencil and labelled as ‘Q’ or ‘D’.
Scope of document examination
The many types of possible examinations that a questioned document examiner undertakes, they are as follows:
- Handwriting and Signatures
- Typewriters, Photocopiers, Laser printers, Fax machines
- Printing Processes
- Age and type of Ink and Paper
- Alterations, additions, erasures, obliterations
- Indentation writings
- Sequence of Strokes
- Genuine or forged document
- Charred Documents
- Rubber stamp impressions
Type of cases/problems encountered by Questioned document examiner
- Is the signature genuine ?
- Is the signature placed at a natural position?
- Is the writing of the body of the document genuine?
- Are the standards submitted all genuine, consistent and of proper dates?
- More than one kind of ink is used ?
- Type of paper used ?
- Watermarks if present are genuine or not?
- Does the document contain abrasion, chemical or pencil erasures, alterations or substitution of any kind?
- If typewritten, was it all written by the same machine ?
- Are there added figures , clauses, sentences , paragraphs written with different typewriters?
- Are there indentations in the paper from hand/type writing?
Problems encountered by questioned document examiner that cannot be answered
1. The authorship of traced forgery cannot be answered by a Questioned document examiner.
2. The authorship of obliterated/ overwriting cannot be found out.
3. The ‘exact’ age of writing surface (paper) and writing instrument ( pen/ink) cannot be answered.
4. The authorship of typewritten material cannot be answered by a Questioned Document Examiner.
5. The exact printing press from where a document has been printed cannot be answered.
6. Writings on extremely charred and writings (fountain ink) immersed in water for a prolonged time documents sometimes get difficult to decipher.
Common tools of the trade
- Excellent Eyesight
- Hand lens/Loupe
- Camera and various filters
- Vernier Caliper
- Comparison Microscope
- Electrostatic Detection Apparatus(ESDA)
- Video Spectral Comparator (VSC)
Types of standards
Writings or signatures etc., written by a known person taken for the purpose of comparison with the questioned are known as standards. Standards also include typed/printed, seals, stamp impressions etc., taken from a known source.
There are two types of standards used in questioned document examination. Standards are marked with blue pencil during examination.
- Admitted Standards – These are the writings done in daily routine. They are done in good faith, thus shows honest writing of a person. These are labelled as ‘A’
|These standards have the following advantages:|
| 1. Since they are usually naturally written, influences attributed to disguise or nervousness are usually not a factor. |
2. They can be selected so as to be contemporaneous with the date of the questioned document.
|Admitted standards also have a number of disadvantages:|
| 1. It can be difficult to prove who wrote them. |
2. The conditions that prevailed at the time of writing are often unknown.
3. They may not have been produced by the same writing materials as those used to prepare the questioned document.
4. It is difficult to locate samples which contain repetitions of the questioned text.
2. Specimen / Requested Standards – These are the writings done by victim or suspect at the request of investigating officer in presence of Magistrate or witnesses. Specimen/ requested standards are marked with blue pencil and labelled as ‘S’ or ‘R’.
|These specimens have several advantages:|
| 1. If prepared properly, they will contain letters and letter combinations|
similar to those that appear in the questioned writing.They can contain repetitions of the questioned text and thus better represent a person’s range of writing habits.
2. They are easy to prove because they have been prepared before magistrate and witnesses.Writing materials (i.e. pen, pencil, paper, cardboard, etc.) similar to
those used in the preparation of the questioned document can be
3. The format or arrangement of the questioned writing can be duplicated.They can be prepared under similar writing conditions to those which prevailed when the questioned document was produced.
Disadvantages of Specimen standards
1. The writer is usually aware of their purpose and,rather than being naturally written, these specimens may display features associated with nervousness.
2. On occasion, the writer may attempt to alter or disguise his/her
natural writing habits.
Points to remember while procuring Admitted standards
- Amount – More the better
- Similarity of subject matter
- Should be contemporary to the questioned document.
Points to remember while procuring Specimen/Requested standards
- Make the person comfortable before starting the dictation
- Should be dictated not copied
- Repetition of writings
- Writing Instrument Used should be similar if not same
- Periodic Interruptions
- Similar Writing condition