New forensic labs are vital for speedy justice
Since last couple of weeks, there have been protests going on all across the nation demanding quick and fast justice delivery. This is not the first time when a criminal is scott free due to delays in our judicial mechanism. Without any apprehension, the entire onus of delays lies on the courts which are struggling with less manpower and insufficient resources. And then, further going down is our investigative team, which again is equipped with stone-age facility and faces huge shortage of staff. Amidst all these loopholes, one peripheral of justice delivery mechanism that is largely getting ignored is our investigation laboratories. In simple terms, cases linger on for ages as the investigating teams fail to present sufficient scientific evidences on time. And, the reason for the same is the sorry state of our forensic labs.
Against conventional notion, forensic labs not only help in providing clues for criminal cases but also for civil and statutory cases. Today, forensic labs are called-in for cases related not only to murder, rapes and assaults but also for theft s, property disputes, document verification, forgery tests and truth analysis. As of now, we have less than 30 forensic labs where cases coming in for investigation from all corners of the country. On an average a single Forensic lab handles only 4000 cases annually while the demand for the same runs in tens of thousands per forensic centre! Moreover, only a handful of these labs are equipped enough to handle such large inflows.
As per a media report, around 4000 cases of sexual assault on women are yet to be solved at forensic level itself! These cases are pending from last 2-3 years. The problem gets augmented as one gauge through the vacancies at these forensic labs, still more than 100 seats are vacant (especially those at technical positions). There are labs where even “sufficient amount of chemicals required for several tests” are not even available. Even cases related to corporate fraud, computer fraud, child paternity cases and DNA tests are in the queue waiting for their trial, which can’t be moved even by an inch without forensic reports. Such poor state of infrastructure not only delays the cases but provides ample time to the culprits to tamper and dodge the evidences and in many cases even steal and damage the evidences, thus, leaving no scientific evidences of their crimes. Moreover, given the sophistication with which crimes are committed (and technologies with which the evidences are tampered) forensic investigation has become evident to prove the verity of samples in possession. Numerous cases like Aarushi- Hemraj murder case, Nithari serial murders case, Priyadarshini Mattoo Case and many other similar cases got delayed because of inadequacy of labs. In spite of these cases attracting media-attention and public outcry, no much heed was seen as most of the vital clues were either destroyed in the process or most of important investigative reports were waiting their turn in various labs across the nation!
In such scenario, the only escape from the problem is to invite private players in this sector too. Tenders should be invited for opening new forensic labs and for operating the existing ones. However, privatization would only take care of half of the problem. The shortage of staff would still keep these labs inefficient and slow. Fast track and short term recognised courses in forensic training should also be encouraged at various levels, especially at vocational training levels. Undoubtedly, the entire process calls for huge investment. But then this in long term would compensate for the investment by decreasing the cost incurred due to prolonged cases and delayed justice. As of now, fast track forensic labs are just part of Bollywood scripts!