A British-era laboratory in Shimla has lost its place of pride as the world's second oldest forensic institution after Scotland Yard, with the central government deciding to merge it with another lab. The British set up the Government Examiner of Questioned Documents (GEQD) to identify handwritings on secret documents connected to freedom fighters of the Indian national movement. To its credit, it has aided in solving a variety of cases even post 1947. Its expertise is in the retrieval of writings from documents - even from charred and damaged ones.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) decided this month to merge three GEQDs in the country , at Hyderabad, Kolkata and Shimla - with the Central Forensic Science Laboratories (CFSLs) at Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chandigarh respectively. Both the GEQD and CFSL are wings of the MHA's Directorate of Forensic Science. The laboratory in charge has received a communiqué expressing the same. The merger decision was taken on Aug 6 on the basis of recommendations made by consultants appointed to review the working of all forensic institutions.
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal plans to take up the case of this historic lab and plans to appeal to the MHA to preserve this heritage site. Also, state Congress leader Vidya Stokes said she would write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, requesting him to allow the GEQD to maintain its unique identity.
The lab has played an important role in solving talked-about cases like the examination of documents relating to stock broker Harshad Mehta's multi-million-rupee securities scam. It was also involved in the scrutiny of fake stamp papers in the Abdul Karim Telgi multi-billion-rupee scam as in the case of purported bribes paid to Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs.
The GEQD of Shimla, according to its archives is the second oldest forensic institution in the world after Scotland Yard. It was set up by the British chiefly to censor letters and identification of handwritings to nail freedom fighters.
The lab also took up the additional work of secret censorship, including the detection of invisible writings and training of military personnel in this field of science