The contemporary crime scenario indicates a pressing need to educate and train the forensic science manpower towards a sustainable professional competence. Today's manpower will have to meet new challenges and the impact of sophisticated and high-tech crimes. They need to be equipped with the necessary skills and competency to satisfy the complex, multidisciplinary and multifarious needs of the law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system.
As there are not many universities offering forensic science programmes in India, a lot of personnel with no formal education in forensic sciences are working in the forensic science laboratories. Such people have acquired the technical skills for their job but are often not able to acquire criminal justice philosophy, forensic science ethics, attitudes and perspectives. Forensic science is an intelligent and skilled scientific activity involving the use of the scientific method to describe, through physical evidence, how events occurred, based on observation, development of hypotheses and subsequent experiments.
Like medicine, forensic science responds to a specific case situation in each instance. We must recognise the principal entry route to a forensic science laboratory would be via specialised academic programmes.
These programmes would have several advantages. Forensic science students would be able to select a specific field and demonstrate motivation and ability as per the curriculum. They will be able to study subjects like law, medicine, evidence, ethics and investigative approaches. They will acquire basic concepts of major scientific disciplines with an emphasis on forensic science applications.
They will develop the way of logical thinking. Personnel with non-forensic background acquire all these on the job in a slow process. With the huge crime rate in a populous country like India, there have to be many more forensic science laboratories, at least 10 times more than the present number. This expansion, which is on the anvil, if taken up in the interest of delivery of fast justice would need a large number of personnel who are academically trained in the discipline of forensic science.
At present, only two universities (Sagar and Punjabi) are offering graduate and postgraduate courses with UGC grant. In recent years, because of the projected demand, some universities like Osmania, Agra, Bundelkhand, Indraprastha and Gujrat are running M.Sc. programmes under self-financing schemes, which lack the full strength of competent staff and laboratory infrastructure. Thus, development and utilisation of the full potential of young men and women is not taking place. To attract brilliant students in physical and life sciences to pursue graduate, postgraduate, doctoral and post doctoral studies in multidisciplinary fields critical to forensic science practice, the Human Resource Development Ministry should initiate steps to take over all the self-financing programmes of forensic science in various universities by the UGC and open new graduate and post-graduate programmes in other universities fully supported by it. The Ministry should also initiate steps to introduce forensic science topics in the choice based credit system as an interdisciplinary elective subject. This subject can also be introduced as an elective specialisation relevant to the particular discipline of physical or life science.
Further, all these academic programmes should have linkages with the forensic science laboratories, hospitals, CSIR and DRDO laboratories as is being considered by the Ministry. It should allot sufficient funds to universities and other linkage organisations to improve and develop these programmes with curricula/syllabi covering advanced scientific and technological methods.
To make it appealing to students, the Home Ministry and State governments should offer jobs to these students in the forensic science laboratories. The UGC and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) should offer scholarships and fellowships to these students in large numbers to pursue Ph. D. programmes.
The school curricula also should introduce forensic science topics to create awareness of the subject. As forensic science is multidisciplinary, it should be developed as a full-fledged subject in many universities of the country.
(The writer is Director (Retired),Central Forensic Science Laboratory (MHA), Hyderabad.)