HindustanTimes Sun,21 Dec 2014

Is proof gathered by sniffer dogs admissible?

Bhadra Sinha, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 18, 2014
First Published: 23:44 IST(18/8/2014) | Last Updated: 10:17 IST(19/8/2014)

Can a person be convicted of a crime on the basis of evidence gathered by police sniffer dogs?

The Supreme Court has agreed to examine this vital question of law and admitted a matter in which the Karnataka government is demanding the conviction of a man accused of raping and murdering a minor on the ground he was arrested after the police sniffer dogs tracked him down.

A bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha issued notice to the convict Imran Khan, and said it would dispose the matter after hearing detailed arguments on the matter. 

A favorable judgment for Karnataka would lay down a new law on admissibility of evidence provided by sniffer dogs in a criminal trial. It would also be a boost for the police to establish their case before the court.

Karnataka challenged Khan’s acquittal by the state High Court, which overturned a trial court order convicting and sentencing him to death for the charges. HC did not “give much weight” to the dog’s evidence and discarded it as unreliable.

The state government has argued that sniffer dogs are extremely intelligent and clues provided by cannot be casually discarded by the court.

Evidence gathered subsequent to a sniffer dog’s trail should be admissible in a criminal trial, the state government said. In the given case, it argued, other circumstantial evidence was there to support the dog’s evidence.

Imran Khan had allegedly abducted and raped a minor in 2009. He was nabbed after a police sniffer dog, taken to the crime spot, led the team to Khan’s house and started barking. The accused reportedly broke down during interrogation.

Based on his confession and other circumstantial evidence, the Sessions Court awarded him death penalty. However, the Karnataka High Court acquitted him.

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