The need for two post-mortems on businessman Ponty Chadha and the recent criticism of the Forensic Science Laboratory by an Additional Sessions Judge for delay in submitting reports have shown up our criminal investigation system in poor light. At a time when five fast-track courts have been sanctioned for Delhi for speedy trial of rape cases, The Hindu takes a look at how well prepared the agencies really are to deal with crime.....

While the Forensic Science Laboratory plays a key role in investigation of criminal cases in the Capital, there has been no mention of its working or even existence in the annual Working Report issued by the Delhi Government. The reason is not far to see.

In an order recently Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau criticised this laboratory for “unusual delay” in giving DNA test reports in a rape case. This, the Judge had noted, was “adversely affecting the administration of justice”.

And it was not for lack of manpower that the laboratory was causing the delay. Dr. Lau said: “There has been an unusual delay in giving the reports with regard to DNA finger printing on the plea of non-availability of chemical.” She also pointed out that “many of the reports which are now being received do not appear to be up to the mark/satisfactory”.

At a time when the conscience of the city and the nation has been pricked by a gruesome gang-rape case and demands are being made for dispensing speedy justice, the court’s observations have exposed the chinks in the armour.

While the Delhi Government had appealed to and got the sanction for five fast-track courts from the Delhi High Court, recent developments suggest it is definitely not prepared to provide the necessary back-up for timely investigation of cases.

Dr. Lau had also taken the Investigating Officer and Station House Officer of Delhi Police concerned to task for not sending the forensic samples to the FSL on time in the case of an alleged rape of a minor by her uncle.

Incidentally, this is not the first time the FSL has been in news for the wrong reasons.

Last year, the Delhi High Court had issued notices to the Union Public Service Commission, the recruiting authority for FSL, after it was alleged that nearly 15 scientists at the facility were not qualified for their jobs and had been hired on the basis of forged documents or false information.

The petitioner, who had obtained information through Right to Information Act applications, had also alleged that these appointments had led to a drop in standards of investigation of criminal cases. Some scientists had claimed that in an accident case of Khan Market, even the blood samples were not lifted properly.

This does not augur well for investigation of rape cases in Delhi. A senior forensics expert said: “While DNA fingerprinting reports can come within two weeks, provided there is proper manpower, infrastructure, instrumentation and chemicals at the facility, in the case of FSL, there have been delays of up to two to three years in the past.”

“Over 50 per cent of the samples from Delhi go out to labs in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bhopal and others places. This itself shows the state of affairs,” he said.

The forensic expert said lifting of samples, their preservation and examination is key to securing conviction in any case. “In the gang-rape case, the culprits got the bus washed to destroy evidence. Similarly, often the women are forced to take bath for destroying evidence. But if a forensic expert is skilled, he would still find enough evidence to nail the culprits.”

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who also looks after the Home Department, said: “We would be taking steps to ensure that there is no paucity of chemical or any other infrastructure or manpower at the FSL.”

Ms. Dikshit said money would also not be a constraint in the matter. “Whatever shortcomings are there would be removed. I would get the Chief Secretary to personally oversee the effort. We want all the systems to be in place before the special fast-track courts become operational in the first week of January 2013.”

It remains to be seen if the awareness generated by the recent gang-rape and the demands to streamline the entire criminal investigation system would indeed bear fruit.

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