Open Page

Why is forensic science stunted and static in India?

Though the Union Home Ministry claims that a lot of new measures are in place to meet the grave challenges posed by global terrorism by investing huge funds, there is no improvement in intelligence gathering, nor has there been progress in putting into focus the revamping of forensic science by using sophisticated technologies and changing the management policies in the forensic science sector.

As has been happening all these years, ‘forensic science' is an ornamental and cosmetic utility of the investigating agencies which completes the formality of legal process and satisfies the lay public. It is showcased and remembered only when major or sensational crimes occur to satisfy the inquisitive and demanding media and citizens. Compared to other disciplines of science and technology, forensic science is static and stunted in India. It is not being utilised in its own right with the full thrust to help the investigating law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system. The benefits of improving, regulating and reorganising forensic science vis-à-vis other technologies are obvious as it virtually assists the law enforcement agencies in criminal investigations, provides proactive assistance, enhances internal security, helps criminal justice administration and reduces the risk of wrongful conviction/exoneration.

After the 26/11 attack, based on an article ‘Revamping Forensic Science in India' ( The Hindu, May 24, 2008), the Home Ministry appointed a committee to give the ‘Perspective Plan for Indian Forensics' and declared 2010 a ‘Year of Forensic Science' with fanfare. The committee report, submitted in July 2010, is said to have been accepted by the Ministry in toto. However, as it happens with the reports of most of the committees, its recommendations have not been debated widely and implemented. Except the merger of the GEsQD with CFSLS, no worthwhile step has been initiated. The three new laboratories opened in Bhopal, Guwahati and Pune have neither the requisite infrastructure nor manpower. Instead of strengthening the depleted manpower in the existing forensic science laboratories in Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Kolkata, personnel have been transferred from these units for adjustments in the new laboratories. The committee recommended the creation of a large number of posts in a conical pattern and improving infrastructure, as per a fixed schedule, but none of these steps has been taken which could bring about a visible change in the working of the laboratories. Recently, India became a laughing stock when about 30 senior scientists from the CFSLs were sent to the FBI laboratory in the U.S. to learn the latest techniques in forensic science in a week! Really, no useful purpose can be served by this kind of gimmick as nobody can learn anything worthwhile in a week; moreover, a good forensic scientist in India knows and can do what forensic scientists in the FBI laboratory are capable of doing. But what happened here resembles the frequent jaunts of herds of politicians and police officers who are sent abroad on ‘study tours.' On more than one occasion, when sensational terrorist attacks occurred in the past, it was suggested by other sovereignties that they would provide technical help in the area of forensic science, causing much embarrassment and insult to the forensic community.

The oblique suggestion given by the committee to privatise the forensic laboratories is perilous and any compromise will jeopardise the whole criminal justice system in the country. The developed countries are using the private sector to the minimum extent after their federal and State laboratories are fully developed. In India, the forensic laboratories have to first develop fully and then think about involving the private sector.

The basic thing is that these laboratories, which were under the tutelage and grip of police organisations from the beginning, have been forcibly groomed in the police culture for a number of years. Police used and continue to use forensic science if it suits them. As a result, forensic science laboratories have gone astray from the spirit of scientific culture and have never been able to encourage knowledge, creativity, innovation and research.

Forensic science has never been given the freedom to innovate, resulting in stagnation. It is not that India does not have talent. If given freedom, encouragement and infrastructure, forensic science can develop equally well like other branches of science — space, computer, atomic energy, medicine and pharmaceuticals.

In a suitable environment, Indian forensic scientists can perform and deliver as good as their counterparts in any part of the world. A suitable environment can never be produced if you look at forensic science through police spectacles. Even today, the budget for the branch is a microscopic fraction of the police modernisation budget.

There has to be a metamorphic change with the help of strategic management to bring cutting-edge technologies, scientific temperament and culture into the forensic laboratories. The linkages among forensic laboratories, academic institutions and research bodies which are so essential for any field to grow are totally lacking. There is virtually no interaction between scientists in the main stream and the forensic field. This has created an identity crisis and somebody humorously said: “Forensic scientist teaches policing to scientists and science to the policemen.”

(The writer is a retired Director of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Hyderabad, and is currently Academic Coordinator, Forensic Science, University College of Science, Osmania University, Hyderabad. His email id is trbaggi@gmail.com)


Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 1:38:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/why-is-forensic-science-stunted-and-static-in-india/article2442491.ece

Next Story