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What is National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS)? - UPSC Current Affairs

Sep 3, 2022

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Background and Evolution of Fingerprinting as a Crime-Fighting Tool


Probable Question

National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) -2-Sep


Recently, the Union Home Minister inaugurated the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS), at the two-day National Securities Strategies (NSS) Conference 2022 held in New Delhi.

Background and Evolution of Fingerprinting as a Crime-Fighting Tool

  • Anthropometry, the measurement of physical features of the body, was used by officials in colonial India as a crime fighting tool.
  • It was soon replaced with a system of fingerprints, being more accurate as no two people can have identical sets of patterns.
  • William Herschel, the chief administrator of the Hooghly district of Bengal, from the late-middle 1800s onwards, used fingerprinting in order to ensure that the correct person was receiving government pensions, signing land transfer deeds, and mortgage bonds.
  • The world’s first Fingerprint Bureau was established in Calcutta in 1897.
  • Tracing a single set of fingerprints from a large collection of fingerprint cards required a workable system of classification, which was developed by Edward Henry.
  • Contribution of Indians:
    • The Inspector General of the Bengal Police, Edward Henry, who had recruited two Indian sub-inspectors, Aziz-ul-Haq (first devised a system of primary classification and a system for indexing names in court conviction registers.) and H C Bose, later acknowledged their contribution.
    • The colonial state bestowed on them the titles of Khan Bahadur and Rai Bahadur respectively.

Related: Criminal Procedure Identification Bill


  • The National Automated Fingerprints Identification System (NAFIS), a web-based application project, is a country-wide searchable database of crime- and criminal-related fingerprints. 
  • NAFIS assigns a unique 10-digit National Fingerprint Number (NFN) to each person arrested for a crime. 
  • This unique ID will be used for the person’s lifetime, and different crimes registered under different FIRs will be linked to the same NFN. 
  • The 2020 report by the NCRB, states that the ID’s first two digits will be that of the state code in which the person arrested for a crime is registered, followed by a sequence number.
  • According to the NCRB report, it enables law enforcement agencies to upload, trace, and retrieve data from the database in real time on a 24×7 basis.
  • It would help in the quick and easy disposal of cases with the help of a centralized fingerprint database.
  • Madhya Pradesh became the first state in the country to identify a deceased person through NAFIS.

Probable Question

 What is NAFIS? Critically comment on the application of technology as an identification tool in the criminal investigation system in India.

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