We saw it in the sensational BMW case in which several people were mowed down. We have seen it again in the case of the brutal murder of a doctor in Gurgaon in full view of witnesses. And we see it once again in the badly botched investigation into the killing of a schoolgirl and the family help in Noida. In each case — not to mention after every terrorist attack — the police appear to have failed to take elementary precautions in gathering evidence. In the Noida case, the police have added insult to injury by inviting the media to the scene of the crime in a bid to win brownie points. In other countries, it is mandatory that the crime scene is cordoned off immediately so that vital clues are not tampered with.
There are several things wrong with our criminal investigation procedure. One, of course, is that the police either deliberately or unwittingly fail to gather even the most basic forensic evidence. The other is that it gathers eyewitness accounts in a shoddy manner that allows people to change their testimonies time and again. Records of initial accounts somehow disappear and those who change their testimonies get off scot-free. We have seen the particularly worrisome cases of crimes committed in full public view like the lynchings in which the police have not been able to make charges stick. In the case of crimes against women, there is very little infrastructure to gather forensic evidence in time. To come back to the BMW case, a travesty of justice was played out in full public view. Despite records of telephonic conversations between the investigating authorities and the accused, the witnesses were able to change their testimonies till the luxury car was finally alleged to be a truck. In the case of the hapless doctor, the eyewitnesses who had initially seen his murder were able to get away with saying that they saw nothing at all.
This sort of lax investigation has allowed many to get away literally with murder. The same incompetence is seen when terror attacks take place. People ranging from curious bystanders to the families of the affected are allowed to swarm all over the place destroying vital evidence. We drastically need to revamp our policing methods to incorporate more sophisticated ways of evidence-gathering as well as trying to hold people to their testimonies.