• Wed. Sep 28th, 2022

Explained: What is NAFIS – and the story of how fingerprinting started in India

ByRandall B. Phelps

Aug 21, 2022

Union Home Minister Amit Shah inaugurated the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) on Wednesday, August 17, during the two-day conference on National Securities Strategies ( NSS) 2022 held in New Delhi.

According to the Home Office, NAFIS, which was developed by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), would help clear cases quickly and easily using a centralized fingerprint database.

In April this year, Madhya Pradesh became the first state in the country to identify a deceased person through NAFIS, PTI reported.

What is NAFIS?

Conceptualized and managed by the NCRB at the Central Fingerprint Bureau (CFPB) in New Delhi, the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) project is a nationwide searchable database of crime-related fingerprints and crime. The web application functions as a central repository of information by consolidating fingerprint data from all states and union territories. According to a 2020 report by NCRB, it allows law enforcement to upload, track and retrieve data from the database in real time on a 24×7 basis.

NAFIS assigns a unique 10-digit National Fingerprint Number (NFN) to each person arrested for a crime. This unique identifier will be used for the life of the person, and different crimes recorded under different FIRs will be linked to the same NFN. The 2020 report says the first two digits of the ID will be those of the state code in which the person arrested for a crime is registered, followed by a sequence number.

By automating the collection, storage and matching of fingerprints, as well as the digitization of fingerprint data records, NAFIS “will provide the much-needed unique identifier for each arrested person in the CCTNS (Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems) both are connected to the backend,” former NCRB Director Ram Phal Pawar had said in December 2020.

Is this the first time that such an automation project has been attempted?

On the recommendations of the National Police Commission in 1986, the Central Fingerprint Bureau first started automating the fingerprint database by digitizing existing manual records through the first automated fingerprint identification system. fingerprinting (AFI) of India in 1992, called Fingerprint Analysis & Criminal Tracing System (FACTS 1.0)

The latest iteration, FACTS 5.0, which was updated in 2007, was considered “past its lifespan”, according to a 2018 report by the NCRB and should therefore be replaced by NAFIS.

Since when does India use fingerprints as a tool in the fight against crime?

A fingerprint identification system first appeared in colonial India, where it was tested before spreading to Europe and beyond. At first it was used by British colonial officials for administrative rather than criminal purposes. William Herschel, the chief administrator of the Hooghly district in Bengal, from the late mid-1800s used fingerprints to reduce fraud and forgery, to ensure the correct person received government pensions, signed land transfer deeds and mortgage bonds.

The growing use of fingerprints was deeply linked to the way 19th century British officials understood crime in India. Entire social groups have been classified as racially distinct “criminal tribes” and have been considered “professional” criminals since time immemorial. However, the problem they faced was identifying these groups among common criminals, which the British found particularly difficult in such a diverse country.

Anthropometry, the measurement of physical characteristics of the body, was used by Indian authorities, but was soon replaced by a fingerprint system, considered more accurate as it was thought that no two people could have identical sets. of patterns. wrote historian Simon A Cole in his book ‘Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification’.

How has the use of fingerprints developed in the fight against crime in India?

The uniqueness of each individual’s fingerprints was first proposed in Europe by the German anatomist Johann Mayer in 1788, and was confirmed by detailed studies by the Scottish physician Henry Faulds around the same time that Herschel had started to implement fingerprints as a means of identification in Bengal. .

Tracing a single set of fingerprints from a large collection of fingerprint cards required a viable classification system, noted historian Radhika Singha in her 2000 research paper “Settle, Mobilize, Verify: Identification Practices in Colonial India”. While similar attempts were made in England and beyond, Bengal police were able to create fingerprint records which replaced the use of anthropometric measurements in 1897 when the world’s first fingerprint bureau was created in Calcutta, four years before a similar decision was made in England. , Singha wrote.

Bengal Police Inspector General Edward Henry recruited two Indian sub-inspectors, Aziz-ul-Haq and HC Bose, for the task. Singha noted that it was Haq who first devised a primary classification system and a system for indexing names in court conviction records.

Henry, however, refused to recognize the crucial contributions of his Indian subordinates when he introduced the so-called “Henry System of Classification” to England in 1901 and established a fingerprint office at Scotland Yard. It was not until 1925 that Henry acknowledged the invaluable efforts of Haq and Bose in the classification system, for which the colonial state awarded them the titles of Khan Bahadur and Rai Bahadur respectively.