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Meaning, Purpose & Scope:
Handwriting is the visible expression of the co ordinate effort of the brain, nerves and muscles. The ability of these parts of the body to work together harmoniously affects the general style as well as the individual characteristics of the writing.
In its simplest definition a ‘Document’ means something presented as a proof or evidence like ‘legal deed’ or ‘official records’ meant for validating or authenticating or certifying a fact.
Broadly ‘Document’ may be defined as the one which contains some symbols, marks, gradations, signatures, writings, initials, numerals, coded letters, etc; either visible, partially visible or invisible that may presently or ultimately convey a meaning or message.”
The ‘Document’ may be handwritten, typewritten, printed or written using any kind of writing material like pen , pencil, chalk, crayons, brush, stick, chisel, hammer, quill, nail, thorn, sharp instruments, typewriter, cheque writer, embosser, printing devices, stamping devices, sealing devices, computer print devices , duplicators, etc. on surfaces like paper, sand ,stone, palm leaf, plant leaf, metal plates, trees, wood, leather, wall, cloth , blackboard, glass, human body, skin, hands, legs, ceiling wax, plastics, gunny bags, magnetic tapes etc.
Questioned Document: The term ‘Questioned Document’ means and implies that there arose a ‘suspicion or doubt or dispute or controversy’ over the genuineness of the document’. Therefore it is also known as ‘Disputed Document, Suspicious document, etc.
Standard Document: These are a set of known or admitted or accepted and authentic specimens of writings etc. taken from a known source. They are also called ‘Exemplars’. These include writings / signatures / initials / typewritten matter / printed matter / rubber stamp and seal impressions / ink samples / paper samples etc.
There are two categories of standard documents known as Specimen standards and Admitted standards :
Specimen writings / signatures: are obtained with reference to the questioned writings especially for the purpose of comparison. In some cases the specimen writings may not correctly reflect the writing habits of the person concerned, particularly when there is a deliberate attempt to disguise or distort.
Admitted writings/signatures: are those which are not written in the normal course of business. In this case the writer has no awareness that they would be utilized for the purpose of comparison with questioned writings. They are also called non-request standards e.g., leave letters, applications etc. Such writings are better standards.
Guidelines for collection of ‘good standards’:
Writings / signatures etc made in the ordinary course of business.
As far as possible - contemporary and nearest period to the date(s) of disputed document(s)
Preferably similar matter as found in the disputed document(s)
Enough writings / signatures, etc. (e.g. Signatures – 5-10; Writings – 3-5 pages)
Same language as the disputed ones
Both ‘request’ standard writings / signatures, etc and ‘collected’ standards.
Capital letters / small letters / numerals, etc
Dictated specimens are ideal
Similar type of writing materials and writing conditions, specimen writings / signatures made with both hands, whenever and wherever possible.
Similar procedure with respect to collection of standard typewritten matter, printed matter, etc.
Nature of problems: Examination of a document serves to test the correctness or otherwise of any facts revealed during investigation and to present it as evidence in a court of law. In cases involving invisible and erased writings, the help of the laboratory may be needed to obtain further clues from the document so that the investigation can be properly directed.
Types of cases:
Registered Wills, Sale Deeds,Postal frauds, Insurance frauds, Tax frauds,Bank frauds,Land scams ,Suicide cases ,Credit card counterfeits, Travelers cheques, Bail bond cases, Fraud in co-operative societies,Dowry death cases,Lottery tickets,Vigilance cases,Threatening letters , Ransom notes,Marks lists,Passports,Chit fund frauds , Motor vehicle R.C. books, Share certificate frauds,Corruption cases Charred documents, etc.
Handwritings and Signatures as proof/evidence; Relevant sections of Indian Evidence Act:
There are 3 ways in which handwritings / signatures, etc of a person can be proved in Court / Enquiry etc.
By the individual himself / herself informing during evidence enquiry etc that a particular piece of writing / signature in a ‘Document’ was / was not made by him.
By a third person who happens to see or who is familiar and acquainted with another person’s writing / signatures and deposing to that effect.
By the report / evidence / deposition of ‘Forensic Document Examiner’ who examines, compares the disputed and standard writings, signatures etc, systematically, scientifically applying various principles and more in particular unbiased. The Expert also provides reasons for his opinion / conclusion, at times demonstrates his findings. Thus the Expert plays the role of both a ‘teacher and an advocate of truth.’
Of all the above 3 pieces of evidence let in, the first two can be considered as interested / biased witnesses, whereas the third (Document Expert) evidence is a much reliable one.
Some of the relevant sections of ‘Indian Evidence Act’ with regard to ‘Expert evidence Admissibility’, ‘Collection of standard material’ are Section - 45, Section – 47, section – 51, Section – 73.
‘Principles’ involved in handwritings Identification:
The ‘Laws and principles of all the natural sciences’ are the basis of ‘Forensic Science including Forensic Documents’. In addition it has developed its own principles also. Handwriting is an acquired habit developed from early stage (school going days) of learning to write and gradually results in ‘individualisation of writings habits’. Basing upon the collective occurrence of number of such individualities in writings habits and in accordance with the mathematical ‘Law of Probability’, handwriting / signatures is identified and attributed to a particular person (writer). The following general rules coupled with patience, common sense, intelligence, numerous sittings, etc are to be followed in an examination of handwritings or signatures, etc.
The ‘Law of Probability’ principle.
The handwritings of every mature writer are personal and individual to him alone.
No two writers write exactly alike.
Every individual’s handwriting or signature undergoes gradual changes in the course of one’s life. However in most of the cases the changes can be slow, not sudden (unless the individual likes to entirely change the pattern of his writings / signature) and they may not be discernible.
There are bound to be ‘some natural variations’ in one’s own genuine writings / signatures.
‘No two genuine signatures of the same person will be mechanically identical in all aspects’. If they are identical, then either one or both of them may be forged.
‘Deterioration of an individual’s handwritings’ due to any cause effects all the writing properties and is not confined to change of one or two elements.
‘A writer cannot exceed his maximum writing ability or skill’ unless he makes serious efforts and practice over a period of time.
‘Attempted disguise’ in writing leads to an inferior quality and never a better quality.
Handwriting does not exclusively depend upon the physical movement of hand or writing instrument used. It is ‘Brain writing’ controlled by the signals sent by the nervous system and hands act as servant of brain’.
Specimen writings are necessary to establish an individual’s normal writing habits and to show the variation common to his writings
Factors like nature of writing surface, writing instruments, position of the writer, nature of support, etc may also be taken into consideration wherever and whenever possible.
Each person has a distinct mental conception of style and manner of writing.
Individuality in a person’s writing creeps in, even at the early stage of writing.
A ‘Characteristic’ is any property or mark which distinguishes and in ‘Document Examination’ it refers to ‘identifying details’. It is the ‘visible record in the written stroke of basic movements and the manner of holding the writing instruments’. It enables the Expert to understand and get a complete and more coherent idea of the individuality and habit of a writer.
‘Pictorial effect’ is said to be the overall effect of the more obvious characteristics of handwriting. There are different classifications of characteristics – viz:
Style Characteristics – Acquired by the learner which is prevalent and fashionable at a particular place and time. (E.g. old round hand style, old Spenserian, modern Spenserian, angular, vertical, etc.
Nationality Characteristics – Definite dates are available when many ‘styles’ came into existence and adopted in all countries. This enables to determine a rough estimate of the age of document and nationality of the writer.
Class Characteristics – Common to a group of persons (E.g. students of the same class, members of family)
Personal or Individual Characteristics – A ‘Characteristic’ which is highly personal, individual, peculiar and is unlikely to occur in another person’s writings. ‘Personal Characteristics’ creep in due to several factors and are inconspicuous. They are the backbone of identification.
It is the study of combination of both class and individual characteristics which enables the document examiner to base his findings.
It is true that genuine writings, signatures of a person do vary and in the examination of handwritings, signatures, this aspect should always receive careful attention by the examiner. The existence of ‘natural variation’, otherwise called ‘Mutability of Handwriting’ in ones writing need, no surprise, since human beings cannot function with precision like machines, when writing instrument is put on paper. But these variations are not fundamental and basic with regard to handwriting and signatures. The variations in writings / signatures are habitual and personal, circumstances and conditions under which they are made. The existence of natural variations in one’s own writings / signatures is one of the indications of genuineness, while lack of natural variation suggests forgery. Sometimes this natural variation in ones writings / signatures may be misinterpreted as ‘significant difference’ and argued as different authorship.
The natural variations in genuine writings / signatures are ordinarily in superficial parts, in size, proportion, the degree of care given to the act. Writings / signatures are one of the permanent and unconscious of human acts. Writings produced under different circumstances, using different writing instruments, on a variety of surfaces and support, under variety of conditions although appear different on a naked comparison, show marked individuality when studied in detail and it will be realised that these differences are only superficial. In order to study the Extent of Natural Variation in ones handwritings or signatures, the Document Examiner needs sufficient standards. The peculiarities in the handwriting characteristics and signatures can be classified as permanent, habitual, fixed, occasional, exceptional, accidental, etc.
Handwritings and signatures of an individual are affected by factors like:
Restricted space in a document
Writings surface / support / instruments for production of documents
Due to weakness of sight
Variations in handwritings due to illness / psychology
Variations in handwritings due to disguise employed
Variations in handwritings due to intoxication
Different Types of Signature Forgeries:
‘Signatures’ being short with limited letters, opportunity and access of them by any third person (forger), it is common and easy to ‘forge signatures’ than ‘forge handwritings’. With some repeated practice, the forger can also be able to produce a successful forgery of signatures in some cases.
‘Genuine signatures’ are usually executed by an individual in an unconscious, automatic way. ‘Genuine signatures’ normally ‘exhibit evidence of freedom, carelessness (involuntarily), speed, well connected letters / strokes, illegibility, natural pen movement, natural tremor, proper shading, natural pen lifts and reasonable natural variations.’
Lack of freedom, slow drawn movement, hesitant letters / strokes, concealed pen lifts, suspicious retouching, careful joining of letters / strokes, unnatural tremor, lack of natural variations, improper connections, improper shading, defective line quality, etc, are the usual evidences noticeable in ‘forged signatures’, which are termed as ‘Inherent Signs of Forgery’.
Types of Forgery:
There are several methods in which ‘forgery’ of signatures can be attempted / achieved. The Examiner has to find out- a) whether the disputed signature is genuine or forged, b) if found forged what is the type of forgery involved, c) whether the suspect / accused can be identified as the author of such forged signature.
In most of the cases, it is easier to say that the ‘disputed signature’ is a ‘forgery’ than to fix the authorship of the forged signature. This sort of opinion will be helpful to a great extent in ‘Civil Cases’; but in ‘Criminal cases’, identification of ‘forger’ is also required. Many forgeries are so crudely executed and bear such a remote resemblance to the genuine signatures, that their ‘spurious nature’ will be evident even on a ‘cursory examination’. There are some signature forgeries executed skillfully and they need microscopic and enlarged photographic examination to arrive at a conclusion that they are not genuine.
The following are some types of forgeries normally come across by the Document Examiners:
Forged signatures which ‘resemble the genuine signatures’
Made by forger with ‘free hand imitation’
The forger has got an idea about the genuine signature / by recollecting mental picture of the genuine signature or keeping a model genuine signature by his side.
This is the most skilful class of forgery
‘Inherent signs of forgery’ can be observed under magnification / microscope
Opinion on authorship of such forged signatures may not be possible in majority of cases.
Forged signatures which ‘closely resemble the genuine signatures.’
The forged signatures may be an ‘exact facsimile of some genuine signatures’
If the forger does not possess the requisite skill to forge signatures by ‘simulation’, he chooses the ‘traced forgery method’
Here a ‘model signature’ is actually made use of.
Different methods of tracing are employed like:
Using tracing paper
Using 2 writing instruments simultaneously
There will be ‘inherent signs of forgery and guide lines’ observed in such traced signatures
Model signatures can also be identifiable in some cases.
Opinion on authorship of traced signatures cannot be offered.
Partially Simulated Forgery:
Here the beginning or ending portions of ‘fraudulent signatures resemble genuine signatures’ and the pattern of middle portion of signatures will be ‘different from genuine signatures’.
Opinion on authorship of such forged signatures may be possible in some cases.
Spurious Signatures – forgery of signatures of fictitious persons or non-existing persons:
Here the forgers make no attempt either to ‘simulate’ or ‘trace’ genuine signatures
The forger signs the names of persons (whose signatures have to be forged) in his own casual way or in a slightly modified way
Opinion on authorship of such signatures may be possible in some cases
Forgery by ‘Trickery’:
In this type of forgery, genuine signatures in full / partial genuine signatures are created / obtained on the fraudulent documents, through ‘trickery’ or ‘tricky ways’, achieved by a systematic scheme
The victims of trickery not only challenge the contents in the documents, but also their signatures as well.
There are several methods / ways used for forgery of signatures by ‘trickery method’
‘Disputed signatures’ even though genuinely made by the individuals, are sometimes disowned -
due to failing memory
due to fear of future consequences
due to any financial / other loss.
Sometimes ‘Disputed signatures’ may be deliberately signed, illegibly signed, executed in an unusual manner by the individuals knowing fully well that they are signing.
There are occasions when signatures are ‘forged’ by the accused under the guise of ‘guided or assisted signatures’, which needs a detailed and deep examination / comparison and both the executor’s and assisting person’s standard signatures / writings are required to arrive at an opinion.
Examination of Tampering of Writings in Documents:
The use of documents in the day to day life has enormously increased and since writings / signatures / numerals, etc in documents are easily susceptible to different types of tampering, people / organisation’s either cheat or get cheated. The work of the ‘Forensic Document Examiner’ does not lie with examination / comparison of handwritings and signatures alone. Often examination and opinion on tampering of writings, etc, nature of tampering, deciphering the previous tampered matter, etc also have to be carried out by the Examiner.
The following are some of the methods of tampering of documents.
Removing the previous matter either partially or fully; writing new matter after erasure
Achieved by physical (mechanical) method and by chemical method.
Come across in several types of documents.
Need magnifiers, microscopes, different kind of illumination, U. V light, sophisticated instruments, chemicals, etc to study and decipher the erased matter
Decipherment of erased matter may not be possible in all cases due to several factors.
Some changes made either ‘by addition or deletion’ after the preparation of document
Changes may be in words / letters / numerals
May be with or without erasure
Alteration may be bonafide or malafide
Special types of photography, microscopic examination, other sophisticated instruments study will be made use of for finding out nature of alteration and to offer opinion.
Matter / figure / letter / word added either ‘by prefixing or by suffixing’ to suit the needs of the person / forger
Can be detected using sophisticated instruments, microscopic study, studying the sequence of matter, spacing, handwriting characteristics, ink examination’, etc.
Additional letters / numerals / characters / words / lines, etc may be introduced in between words, lines, paragraphs, at the end of writing after the original matter / document is prepared.
May be handwritten or typewritten
Can be detected and studied using various instruments, handwriting characteristics study, ink examination, etc.
Particular sheet or sheets in documents may be replaced with different / changed content as per the needs of forger
Sale Deeds, G.P.A., Agreement Documents, Minute Book, Bills, Case Diaries, Registers, etc are some examples of documents in this category where substitution is carried out.
The matter may be handwritten / typed/ even printed.
Can be detected by examination of paper, ink, contents, studying handwriting characteristics, size, designs of letters for typing / printing; examination of extraneous marks on paper, staple marks, page numbers, ruled lines, water marks, etc using sophisticated instruments, chemicals, microscopic study, etc.
Means to ‘hide’, ‘to obscure’, ‘to overlap’ completely
May be by accident or with intention
Writings / keywords / letters / figures / obscene matter / address etc may be obliterated.
Achieved by smearing / pouring / same or different types of inks, applying correcting fluid, chemicals, etc.
Original matter obliterated can be detected / deciphered in many cases by examination under different kinds of lights, employing suitable filters, suitable solvents / white paint / chemicals, examining all sides of documents.
The obliterated matter should be ‘opaque’ and the obliterating matter should be ‘transparent’ for successful decipherment.
Otherwise called ‘invisible writings’ or ‘sympathetic writings’
Achieved by employing ‘secret inks’ or ‘sympathetic inks’
Presence of ‘secret writings’ on paper may be unsuspected
Criminal gangs, members of secret services, subversive political groups, prisoners of the war, etc usually resort to this type of message communication.
Several chemicals, body fluids, vegetable juices, etc are usually materials used for preparing secret documents
Both physical and chemical methods are employed to decipher secret writings.
Examination of Typewritten Matter:
Majority of documents are also typed. Sometimes typewritten matter is also questioned and examination by Expert is called for. Some of the problems relating to typewritten matter are:
Whether the entire sheets of documents were typed in one machine or more than one machine?
Whether a particular typed sheet had been substituted?
Whether the disputed typed matter and specimen typed matter agree or disagree?
Whether a particular typewriter was used for making the disputed typewritten matter?
Is more than one typed matter from the same source?
Is there any tampering in the contents of the typewritten matter?
What is the make / model of typewriter used for a disputed typewritten matter?
To estimate the age of document through typewritten matter
To identify the typist, etc.
From manual typewriters to electronic typewriters to computer based word processor systems – are the technological advancements in this field.
Just as handwriting examination, typewritten matter examination also involves study of various typewritten characteristics like uniformity, size, proportion, designs of characters, alignment, spacing, slant, weight of impression, arrangement, punctuation marks, bars, curves, circle formations, serifs, defects, etc, since each typewriter has got its own peculiarities, defects in the manufacturing stage or due to constant usage. Measurement, examination under microscope, VSC, superimposition, different kinds of lights, etc can be used for their study.
Similarly, ‘typist’ can be identified in some cases by examining aspects like spelling mistakes, headings, wrong usage of punctuation marks, arrangement of paragraphs, margins left, underscoring, employing Roman scripts at places, faulty touch of the typist, etc between disputed and standard typewritten matter.
Examination of Printed Matter:
Numerous documents are printed for various purposes, either partly or completely. Printing generally involves 3 stages:
Preparation of surface bearing printed natter images
Application of suitable inks onto the printed matter surface
Transfer of inked printed matter images to paper or other printing stocks
Different problems and different questions have to be answered with regard to printing, viz:
Is the document genuine or counterfeit?
Is it an original or reproduction?
Are two or more documents from the same source or different sources?
What is the source of document?
Whether the seized items like negatives, proof, manuscripts, bills, receipts, vouchers, numbering machine, blocks, emblem, plates, ink, paper, printing devices, machines, etc can be linked with the printed matter and accused?
Whether there is any tampering in the printed matter?
Whether the age of the document can be determined by study and examination of printed matter?
There are different methods and types used for printing, depending on the needs and facilities available, viz:
The Relief or letterpress printing
The Offset or lithography printing
The Intaglio gravure printing
The Screen printing
The Flexography printing
The Holograms printing
The Security printing
The Computer printing (like dot matrix, inkjet printing, laser printing, xerox copying)
Each method of printing involves different techniques and by studying and comparing the various characteristics (like typewritten matter examination) along with other features, using different kinds of instruments, photography, chemical tests, etc the Examiner can offer opinion on most aspects.
Other Miscellaneous Types Of Examination:
Apart from the above type of routine examinations, the Document Examiners have to carry out some miscellaneous examination in documents, etc and to offer Expert opinion on them. Some of them are:
Examination of paper / ink.
Examination and decipherment of writings, etc in charred documents.
Determination of sequence of strokes in writings / signatures / other impressions / writings on folds.
Decipherment of indented writings, embossed matter, etc in documents.
Opinion on different types of computer print-outs.
Examination of laminated documents to determine whether they are originals or colour xerox copies.
Examination of metal seals / rubber stamps / facsimile / postal cancellation impressions, material objects / sealing wax etc.
Determination and opinion on Age of Documents / writings / inks, etc.
Each type of above problems / questions can be examined applying varying techniques, instruments, chemicals, etc to offer opinion on them.
Instruments employed in Forensic documents section includes:
Video spectral comparator (VSC): for detection of additions, deletions, alterations, counterfeit currencies, secret writings, etc. using different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiations like U.V, I.R etc and different modes of light like transmitted, co-axial, reflected etc.
Electrostatic detection apparatus (ESDA): for deciphering the indentation marks
Stereo microscope: for studying the sequence of strokes.
* Prasad G V H V, Director, Truth Labs ,Hyderabad –500034
11iting examination, typewritten matter examination also involves study of various typewritten characteristics like uniformity, size, proportion, designs of characters, alignment, spacing, slant, weight of impression, arrangement, punctuation marks, bars, curves, circle formations, serifs, defects, etc, since each typewriter has got its own peculiarities, defects in the manufacturing stage or due to constant usage. Measurement, examination under microscope, VSC, superimposition, different kinds of lights, etc can be used for their study.
Other Miscellaneous Ty