All Answered For You

The following are the Frequently Asked Questions. The explanations are meant to be for general guidance regarding the scope and functions of a Forensic Document and Handwriting Examiner. It is from the point of view of a common man and general understanding. It doesn’t have any legal relevance in that sense.
1What aspects does Forensic Document Examination involve?
Forensic Document Examination involves the examination and comparison of writings, signatures, relative age of ink, ink alteration or addition, paper alteration, binding etc. In essence, we examine the genuineness or forgery of the writings, signatures and the document as a whole.
2Is this valid in the Court of Law?
Yes. We work under section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act being an Independent Expert.
3Is Forensic Document Examination only for Court cases?
No. It can be done even for private issues or as a verbal reply before you proceed with the evidence in the Court of Law.
4Can I get a Certificate?
No. No Expert, whether Government or Private can give you a Certificate. Any expert can give you an ‘Opinion’. In any Court, an Opinion becomes admissible when it is supported and accompanied by reasoning and its validity is tested by the reasons, cross examination and finally by the Judge, and hence it is neither a certificate of fact and nor is it entirely binding on the Courts by default.
Further, my job is to simply scientifically compare a disputed / questioned writing with an admitted / known / comparative writing, which means that first, there has to be a clearly marked admitted / known / comparative writing, and, second, that I opine on the scientific matching of the authorship and not a ‘certificate’ which identifies a particular person as a writer like a Notary would do.
5What are your Fees and how is the Process?
I will be able to tell you the exact fees only upon seeing the documents, not from a legal but a scientific point of view. However, my usual fees for 3-4 signatures of one person, taken as a single case, are as under:-
1. Verbal Opinion / Opinion Letter (TAT 2-4 days): Rs. 10,000/- (Rs. Ten Thousand only)
This is basically addressed to you as a person, simply stating whether the signature is genuine or not, without detailed reasoning.
This is generally sought to serve as a written reference for the concerned parties, any internal processing, filing an FIR, preliminary Court proceedings and filing for Anticipatory Bail.
2. Detailed Opinion (TAT 5-10 days): Additional Rs. 10,000/- (Rs. Ten Thousand only) OR a Total Rs. 20,000/- (Rs. Twenty Thousand only) if sought directly
This is generally required at the time of evidence during trial. The Courts and the law consider an Opinion as one that is accompanied with reasoning.
Appearance, visits and any other consultancies are charged separately.
It must be clearly understood that every case is different in the complexity and the implied and direct quantum. A child forging a parents’ signature and a well-practiced skilled forger forging on an important document are bound to have a different set of complexity and therefore the professional time demanded. It is completely immaterial to me as to what is the document in question, as in whether it is a Will or a frivolous acknowledgement, or what is the amount involved. I charge as per my estimated time required and not contingent or commission based fees, or the parties involved. I believe I can do more justice to my profession and personal conscience by charging equally. And most importantly I believe that this independence of mine will in fact make me truly an independent expert, which in fact is the basic purpose, and will end up helping you, my client, and the judiciary on the longer run. I will give you an invoice for your payments, and I assure you that it will be very fair and honest, while I will make every possible recommendation to make your expense the minimum.
6Do the originals need to be examined?
The examination and opinion formation can happen on the basis of the photocopies or originals. In most cases photocopies are okay. I can guide you regarding this once I see the documents. If the Opinion is not admitted by the opposite party then ideally there will an additional requirement of the examination of the originals. So, it can generally be done both ways, either first the examination of the originals and then the Opinion, or the other way round, wherein first I give the Opinion first and then verify that the originals are in congruence. It totally depends on cases to case, both from the forensic point of view, which I will guide you, and the legal point of view, which the lawyer will guide you. It is generally better to examine the originals if they are in your possession or can be made available. Even when you are giving me photocopies, you must try to give the earliest generation photocopy that you can obtain.
7What makes you an Expert?
This is the most common question to any practitioner in this field. It is generally believed that there has to be some or the other qualification obtained from a brick and mortar institution and expressed by some initials implying some degree. The truth is that the knowledge and expertise, not only in practice but also in the eyes of the Law, have a much wider domain, out of which some, over the period due to a large demand or supply have been regulated and institutionalized, and even then are left with varied recognitions and limitations. There are still many areas where the individual excellence and case to case reasoning rules the roost. This is sanctioned by the section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act. Fortunately, this question does not survive even the first meeting and enough people, practices and case laws vouch for it.
I am an Expert by virtue of specialized knowledge, skill, training and experience in this science and field, as required by the section 45. Indian and International norms not only permit this but are also widely accepted. There are no two opinions about this and there are enough case laws and practical precedents of renowned experts not having a University Degree. I have obtained my primary training under my senior and a nationally renowned expert Mr. V. C. Misra and have been certified by him. In fact, section 45 is a very broad section and very well includes even a cobbler to opine on how much time a repair ought to take or how long before a material wears off. There are no recognized or mandated bodies for forensic experts in India. There were no renowned courses in India which only teach Forensic Document Examination with such depth and duration as can be obtained by being trained by another expert. Even internationally, no University training is exclusively recognized. M.Sc. Forensic Sciences does have Forensic Document Examination as one of the subjects. However, there are known differences of opinion whether, in case of M. Sc. Forensic Science, where this being one of the about 6 subjects in a semester is really amounting to ‘specialized’ knowledge which the Law demands. In fact when a claim is being made of training at a Government Lab, it is actually just for 15-30 days. The internationally relied upon ASTM standards call for equivalent to two years of training. I have obtained that in my primary training, even without considering my additional training from the International School of Questioned Document Examination, U. S. A. The same goes for people who claim to be having ‘specialized’ knowledge in all fields.
8So what is a Government Expert? Is his Opinion more valid?
A Government Expert is an expert who works in the Government department. It is essentially a Police person who knows testing. You cannot approach a Government Expert independently and ask him to give an Opinion to you directly just like you cannot go to a police and ask him to play detective or to investigate a matter without a proper FIR. He has to be approached through the Police or the Hon. Court only.
No, his Opinion, in essence is as valid as an Independent Expert’s Opinion, just like the Police Investigation has to be still proved before the Court. Only in rare cases where the Independent and the Government Expert holds different Opinions, with both having equally convincing reasoning and answers for cross examinations and arguments, the Hon Court may favour the Government Expert. It is the reasoning which the Hon Courts are expected to honour, and it is a fact that they do. We all know that the judiciary, legislature and the administration are different.
9What about the Government of India and Ministry of Corporate Affairs recognition?
The Government of India does not recognize any expertise and when someone claims such recognition through the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the reference is being made to registering themselves as a Company or an LLP with the MCA with an Object Clause in their Memorandum of Association. Ask any First Year Commerce student and he will tell you what a joke this is. It is as good as putting up a fallacy that if one registers a Company with a training objective, he will become a Government recognized Institute or Teacher irrespective of UGC or a B.Ed degree, and, more so as if a B.Ed person needs to register as a Company to be Government recognized! Similarly there are no ISO for the actual expertise and recognition by Courts and are only for the handling and organizational practices which are not even relevant to document examination work. Interestingly, Advocates and Chartered Accountants cannot work as Companies but only LLPs with other partners being of the same profession. Education and Expertise is individual based and cannot be of a Company. In fact a Company is just a cover, in the absence of specific rules in this profession, to limit individual liability and should be taken as a red flag rather than something desirable.

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