The meaning and object of Test Identification Parade

Identification parades have been in common use for a very long time, for the object of placing a suspect in a line up with other persons for identification is to find out whether he is the perpetrator of the crime. This is all the more necessary where the name of the offender is not mentioned by those who claim to be eye witnesses of the incident but they claim that although they did not know him earlier they could recall his features in sufficient details and would be able to identify him if and when they happened to see him.

The holding of a test identification in such cases is as much in the interest of the investigating agency or the prosecution as in the interest of the suspect or the accused. For while it enables the investigating officer to ascertain the correctness or otherwise of the claim of those witnesses who claim to have seen the perpetrator of the crime and their capacity to identify him and thereby fill the gap in the investigation regarding the identity of the culprit, it saves the suspect or the, accused from the sudden risk of being identified in the dock by the self-same witnesses during the course of the, trial. The line-up of the suspect in a test identification parade is a workable way of testing the memory and veracity of witnesses in such cases and has worked well in actual practice.


Lahore High Court in Sajjan Singh v. Emperor(1945[1]) said that,

  • “If an accused person is already well-known to the witnesses, an identification parade would, of course, be only a waste of time.
  • If, however, the witnesses claim to have known the accused previously, while the accused himself denies this, it is difficult to see how the claim made by the witnesses can be used as a reason for re using to allow their claim to be put to the only practical test.

Even if the denial of the accused is false, no harm is done, and the value of the evidence given by the witnesses may be increased.

  • It is true that it is by no means uncommon for persons who have been absconding for a long time to claim an identification parade in the hope that their appearance may have changed sufficiently for them to escape recognition. Even so, this is not in itself a good ground for refusing to allow any sort of test to be carried out.
  • It may be that the witnesses may not be able to identify a person whom they knew by sight owing to some change of appearance or even to weakness of memory, but this is only one- of the facts along with many others, such as the length of time that has elapsed, which will have to be taken into consideration in determining whether the witnesses are telling the truth or not.”


In re Sangiah (1948[2]) the decision of the Lahore High Court in Sajjan Singh v. Emperor (Supra) was dissented from Rajamannar, J., observed:

“I am unable to find any provision in the Code which entitles an accused to demand that an identification parade should be held at or before the enquiry or the trial. An identification parade belongs to the stage of investigation by the police. The, question whether a witness has or has not identified the accused during the investigation is not one which is in itself relevant at the trial. The actual evidence regarding identification is that which is given by the witness in Court.

The fact that a particular witness has been able to identify the accused at an identification trade is only a circumstance corroborative of the identification in Court. If a witness has, not identified the accused at a parade or otherwise during the investigation the fact may be relied on by the accused, but I find nothing in the provisions of the Code which confers a right on the accused to demand that the investigation should be conducted in a particular way.”


In Provesh Kumar Bose v. The King(1951[3]), a Division Bench of the Calcutta High (Harries C.J., & Das Gupta, J.) held:

“The fact that the witnesses have identified in Court the accused is of very little consequence in a prosecution under s. 384, Penal Code, when none of the witnesses knew the accused from before…….. the corroborative evidence which one is entitled to expect in cases of this nature is the evidence of the witnesses having pointed the accused whom they identified in Court from the midst of other persons with whom they were mixed up at a test identification parade. The evidence of their having identified such persons at a test identification parade has no substantive value, but is very important corroboration of their evidence in Court.”


In Awadh Singh v. The State[4](1954) it was held that,

“the accused person may or may not have legal right to claim for test identification and the holding of test identification may or may not be a rule of law, but it is a rule of prudence. Test identification parade should be held especially when the accused persons definitely assert that they were unknown to the prosecution witnesses either by name or by face and they requested the authorities concerned to have the test identification parade held.”


The court said in Perkash Chand Sogani v. The State of Rajasthan(1957[5]) that the absence of test identification in all cases is not fatal and if the accused person is well-known by sight it would be waste of time to put him up for identification. Of course if the prosecution fails to hold an identification on the plea that the witnesses already knew the accused well and it transpires in the course of the trial that the witnesses did not know the accused previously, the prosecution would run the risk of losing its case. It seems to us that if there is any doubt in the matter the prosecution should hold an identification parade specially if an accused says that the alleged eyewitnesses did not know him previously.

It may be that there is no express provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure enabling an accused to insist. on an identification parade but if the accused does make an application and that application is turned down and it transpires during the course of the trial that the witnesses did not know the accused previously, as pointed out above the prosecution will, unless there is some other evidence, run the risk of losing the, case on this point.


In State versus Dhanpat[6](1960), it was held that if the witnesses do not give the name of any accused, it is necessary to hold a test identification parade and where a witness gives the name of the accused, ordinarily no such parade is necessary. The Court however said that if any accused hold out a challenge and says that he will not be identified by the witnesses or makes a prayer that he should be put upon a test identification parade, such a parade must always be held in order to meet the challenge. The Court also said that if the accused was arrested on the spot and was in custody from that time upto the date of trial, there could be no question at all about his identity.


In ‘Jadunath Singh v. State of U.P (1970),’ a question was raised that since the accused was denied ‘Identification parade’ the trial was vitiated. And the accused’s Consel urged that the eye- witnesses were not reliable and the courts below had missed the point that the appellants (accused) could not have anticipated that the deceased would be at this particular spot at that time.

The court referred Phipson on the Law of Evidence, 9th Ed., p. 415, which is as follows:

“In criminal cases it is improper to identify the accused only when in the dock; the police should place him, beforehand, with others, and ask the witness to pick him out. Nor should the witness be guided in any way nor asked Is that the man.”

And, approving the statement, held that

“We consider that the same is the law in India, if the identity is in doubt. Accordingly, on the facts of this case we are of the opinion that the trial was not vitiated because the accused persons were denied identification.”


In the case of ‘Ramanathan v. State of Tamilnadu (1978)’, the court said that,

“Where there was satisfactory evidence to prove that at least two of the witnesses emphatically claimed from the very beginning of the incident that they bad noticed the culprit and had in fact described him and had claimed that they could identify him, the holding of a test identification parade was absolutely necessary.”


In ‘Surendra Narain @ Munna Pandey v. State of UP (1997)’, The court was of the view that,

‘The failure to held the test identification parade even after a demand by the accused is not always fatal and it is only one of the relevant factors to be taken into consideration along with the other evidence on record. if the claim of the ocular witness that they knew the accused already is found to be true, the failure to hold a test identification parade is inconsequential.”

[1] A.I.R. 1945 Lah. 48, 50

[2] A.T.R. 1948 Mad. 113,

[3] A.I.R. 1951 Cal. 475

[4] A.I.R. 1954 Patna 483

[5] G.A. No. 92 of 1956 decided on 15-1-1957.

[6] AIR 1960 Patna 582