Forensic work in India is a pale shadow of the hi-tech crime-solving action you see on CSI, with doctors spending more time establishing parentage for infidelity and inheritance cases than tracking master criminals.
Almost two in five — 40% — of all DNA profiling in the forensic department of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is done to establish biological relationship on police requests or direction of the court.
The Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA) profiling is done by analysing blood, saliva and semen samples of a person using various techniques and comparing the results with another sample to check if there’s a genetic match.
It took lawyer Rohit Shekhar, 32, five years to establish that the 87-year-old veteran Congress leader ND Tiwari was his biological father, but even busy forensic lab such as AIIMS can give results for DNA analysis to establish parentage in as little as four days. The only other lab in Delhi that does DNA profiling is the Central Forensic Lab, which is exclusively by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
“We analyse about 35 samples for DNA analysis in a year, of which about 15 are paternity requests. The rest are for helping out in criminal investigation for cases of rapes, murders etc.,” said a senior doctor in the department of forensic medicine at AIIMS, requesting anonymity.
Though AIIMS conducts DNA analysis only when the request has been forwarded either from a Court or through investigative agencies such as the Crime Branch or CBI, several people put in private requests for the test every year, which are all turned down.
“The number of private requests that we get for conducting DNA analysis to establish the identity of the father is higher than what we get through the government channels. Each year, we get 40 to 45 such requests but we do not entertain them. We ask them to approach us through the Courts to make the procedure legitimate,” said Dr T D Dogra, head of the department of forensic medicine, AIIMS.
“Such cases are rare in sustained marriages and usually occur when there’s a period of separation between the couple and the woman conceives. Still, very few people approach the court to establish parentage,” said Meenakshi Lekhi, a senior Supreme Court lawyer.
In Tiwari’s case also, the forensic experts from had collected blood samples of Shekhar, his mother and the person she was living with. “We collected the samples and handed over to the investigating agency earlier this year,” said the senior doctor.
The recent request that the department got was for the case of a woman who was eight-months pregnant and had been abandoned by her partner. She moved Court to prove the child was her partners, which he was denying.
In most cases, the blood sample is collected for testing, in rare circumstances, buccal swab — cheek swab from inside a person’s cheek — is taken.
The test, which is done in a special forensic lab, costs about Rs. 10,000 at AIIMS. “The results take anywhere between 4 days and 4 months, depending on the urgency of the case,” added the doctor. The delay happens because the lab does not run the automated DNA-sequencer for merely 2-3 samples, but waits for at least five samples before running the test.