Those selling you substandard vegetable oil or supplying you adulterated petrol manage to evade punishment for a long time, as those supposed to submit a report on its quality are busy tending to ‘serious crimes’.
According to an official from the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), those equipped to conduct chemical tests to determine purity of suspected substandard seized goods end up spending most of their time attending court summons.
The FSL currently has six sanctioned posts for assistant chemical analysers (ACA) out of which two are vacant.
In cases where drugs are seized by the police, ACAs identify the drugs and submit reports before the court, conduct blood and urine tests to trace presence of drugs, identify explosives used in a blast, check for purity levels of products ranging from kerosene and gutkha to vegetable oil.
In case of a building collapse, the FSL checks if the sand-cement ratio used was proper and if the mixture was adulterated.
“In case drugs are recovered, the accused is booked under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, where we have to submit a report within 30 days,” said an official from FSL, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
“Even after we submit the report, the defence lawyer may want to cross-examine the ACAs and summons are served accordingly. We have four persons employed as ACAs, one of whom is nearing retirement,” the official said.
Four days in a week, they are attending court proceedings in NDPS cases. They have to go at 10am and are relieved only by 4pm. The entire day is lost and no tests can be carried out,” the official added.
Lawyer Ayaz Khan, who has handled several NDPS cases, said cross-examination of ACAs is important. “There have been several acquittals when the ACA could not back a report he submitted,” said Khan.
“Other cases except the NDPS ones have started piling up,” said the FSL official. He said 753 cases are pending from the last six months.
“It is only in cases of top priority like the 13/7 blasts wherein we had to identify the explosives used, that we could submit the report early,” the official added.
“We hope once the vacant posts are filled, the problem will be sorted to an extent. A mechanism is needed to ensure that different aspects of our job are attended to and inordinate delays are avoided,” he added.