If solving mysteries is your forte, then forensic science can be an interesting option, says Syed Amir Ali Hashmi.education Updated: May 23, 2012 12:42 IST
Remember the Jessica Lal murder case and the Nithari murders, for which the police had to depend on more than just witnesses? The murder scenes had to be carefully scanned, evidence had to be collected and analysed minutely — all of which was done by forensics experts.
Forensic science involves the application of scientific principles to solve a crime. Experts use technology to gather clues from a crime scene and convert these into evidence admissible in a court of law. Not only for cases related to crime, the services of forensic science experts are also used in civil cases such as proving validity of signatures, etc.
“To become a good professional, one requires good investigative skills. Take this case I solved. It was linked with the Meerut branch of a bank. A cheque had come in for clearance and the officials there suspected it did not belong to the person who was supposed to have issued it. They were right and wanted to prove it as the culprit was not coming to the branch and only communicating to them through telephone. One could not have detected the forgery that easily but when I examined the cheque I found the original cheque number had been erased, and a new number put in by using the same printing ink. To solve a case one needs investigative skills as well as scientific help,” says VC Mishra, a private forensic handwriting and fingerprinting expert.
Forensic investigators work closely with the police and prepare reports after gathering evidence from the crime scene. “If you are a freelancer, you have to be in touch with lawyers and police personnel.
Here you require good communication skills and technical know-how,” says B K Sharma, forensic expert and lecturer at Amity University. Court appearances are also required. “You have to then have complete knowledge of the case as in court you will be cross-examined by lawyers,” adds Sharma.
One can find employment with law enforcement agencies, the police, and in the investigative services of the government. Private agencies, too, hire forensic experts. One can also work as an expert private witness who gives an opinion on handwriting and fingerprinting. “Many lawyers also use our services to solve cases and pick out loopholes in the report filed by the police or the investigating agency. Sometimes they call us to read a case so that they can prepare questions for cross-examination. Insurance companies, too, hire experts for document verification and fraud investigation. Some banks use the services of freelance forensic experts... So, as a forensic expert you have lot of options to earn money,” says Sharma.
What's it about?
Forensic science involves investigating a crime by applying scientific principles. Forensic scientists use the latest technology and collect evidences such as traces of blood, saliva, other body fluids, hair, fingerprints, etc. These experts work closely with the police and provide evidence admissible in court. The expertise of a forensic professional can also be utilised for civil cases related to issues such as proving the validity of a signature on a will, etc
For a crime investigator
6 am: Wake up
9 am: Check reports which have come from the lab
11 am: Visit the scene of a crime to collect samples
12 noon: Meet people related to the case, from the client to the police
2 pm: Lunch
3 pm: Get back to work, which might drag on till late
The schedule can be tiring as it might stretch over many days
The pay varies for state forensics departments as per government pay scales. Those doing private practice initially start by earning Rs 6,000 a month. With experience, professionals earn Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 a month according to the case
As with all professions, you need to be hard working
Have an inquisitive mind, concern for accuracy
Good observation skills
Team spirit and ability to come to logical and practical conclusions by using a
Ability to play your cards close to your chest. Investigating and solving cases requires utmost care and you should at no point of time divulge information that can hamper the probe
“Even after solving cases, you should be able to keep things to yourself and not share facts with your peers or family,” says P K Chattopadhyay, Director, Amity Institute of Advanced Forensic Science Research and Training
How do i get there?
You need to have a science background. Opt for science subjects, especially with chemistry, in senior school.
After graduation, you can go for one-year diploma courses in forensic science and
criminology. You can also pursue a Master’s programme in forensic science and later opt for research.
Institutes & urls
Dr B R Ambedkar University, Agra: MSc (forensic science)
Dr Harisingh Gour University, Sagar: MSc (criminology), MA (criminal and forensic science)
Karnataka University, Dharwad: MA (criminology and forensic science
University of Mysore: MA (criminology and forensic science)
Amity Institute of Forensic Sciences, Noida, BSc and MSc (forensic science) and diploma course
Punjabi University, Patiala: MSc (forensic science)
Bundelkhand University, Jhansi: MSc (forensic science and criminology)www.bujhansi.org
National Institute of Criminology, Delhi: MA (criminology)
Pros & Cons
Life is interesting as you unravel mysteries
A lot of people depend on you to solve a case
You get to make contacts
Work can sometimes be tiring but then it depends on your dedication
People might try to bribe you and ask you to make a report in their favour. Here you have to stick to ethics
Crime scene investigation
Forensic psychology and psychiatry
Clinical forensic medicine
Forensic art, and more
We’ve made a mark internationally
Forensics experts are in demand abroad
What’s the scope for a forensics expert?
A forensic scientist does get preference in police recruitments, not only at the level of sub-inspectors but even at the level of IPS.In countries abroad there is a well organised system with private experts and in India the same is beginning to be utilised in forensic document examination, identification of voice — particularly useful in trap cases organised by anti-corruption agencies and the CBI.
Any LLB can be a good lawyer but a forensic scientist with the same qualification will have much better presentation skills because of forensic knowlege.Experts can start their own investigation agencies.
I have also joined a TV channel and given my inputs on how authentic a crime scene should look. I have also worked on actual experiments shown on the channel.
How much progress have we made in the field?
In some branches, we have made progress. For example, there was no voice identification till 1985, but I started it. Similarly, the use of DNA has been made extensive whereas this facility was not available earlier.
In document examination, we have kept pace with what’s happening internationally and our experts are very good.
Some experts have gone outside India to attend to cases of document examination. Sometimes requests from other countries have been received for examination of their crimes and investigation by CFSL and CBI.