For more than a month now, bottles containing viscera of crime victims, preserved for forensic examination, are gathering dust in the city’s police stations. The “overburdened” Central government laboratories have refused to test them and this threatens to cripple the already tardy criminal justice system.
Viscera — organs, like heart, liver and intestines — are preserved on doctors’ direction when the postmortem of victims fail to throw up sufficient information about the cause of death.
This is especially done in sensitive cases like dowry deaths and murders, where a forensic examination can change the entire course of investigation, for example, by determining the presence of the kind of poison in the body.
The demand for these tests has risen by 30 per cent since the last year and the latest development would mean more pile-up every month, said a senior Delhi police officer.
Viscera should ideally be tested within a month of storage for ideal results. It can maximum be tested within six months time and a delay could mean erosion of the sample, said forensic experts. Faced with a backlog of about 6000 cases pending trial due to delayed forensic test reports, including those related to toxicology (viscera examination), the Delhi High Court earlier this year asked the government to expedite these tests for speedy delivery of justice.
Laboratories under the Directorate of Forensic Science, in Hyderabad and Kolkata, examine 120 of Delhi’s monthly requirement of at least 170 viscera samples. The Directorate of Forensic Science has now asked Delhi Police to stop sending samples for examinations since they are short staffed. The decision was conveyed last month to the Crime Branch through a letter that mentioned a “meeting in this regard” at the office of Dr M.S. Rao, chief forensic scientist of the DFS.
Delhi can send a maximum of 35 samples for tests each month to the state government’s laboratory in Rohini. This means the other samples will now have to wait for their turn at the laboratory.
The refusal poses a serious threat to justice, say forensic experts. “We usually preserve viscera in bottles that retain its composition to the best for about a month. Further delay could cause decomposition and contamination of the viscera,” said Sudhir Gupta, associate professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.