Tired of waiting for the state’s Forensic science Laboratory (FSL) at Kalina to work on its cases, the Maharashtra sales tax department (MSTD) has decided to start its own cyber forensic laboratory.
Commissioner of sales tax Sanjay Bhatia told HT they would be starting the laboratory within the next 2-3 months and a tender for the it had already been floated.
So far, the MSTD had to depend on the FSL for analysis of the seized data, but as per officials of the department who did not want to be named, at times the wait was too long. “We had an internal case at the Palghar office nearly two years ago in which some computer data needed to be analysed. Two years later we are still waiting for the report,” the officer said.
An official in the FSL said they had a long list of cases from various departments of the government. And, because of the sensitive nature of police cases, they usually get priority and because they are short-staffed the backlog is huge.
“We have seen cyber laboratories of the income tax department and the laboratory at Hyderabad and in Gujarat. After a careful study, we decided to start our own state-of-the-art laboratory,” joint commissioner of sales tax Bhagwan Ghadge told HT. The lab would come under the Economic intelligence unit (EIU) of the sales tax department. He said the MSTD needed a cyber lab as they had to check software, email IDs and hard disks, which they deal with during various searches.
An official of the MSTD said in the current scenario business data is stored in the electronic form such as computers, laptops, USB drives, CDs, mobile phones and so on.
At the time of the investigation it is necessary to extract data hidden or protected by encryption. “To get maximum revenue output by the investigation department, it is essential to extract data from different media seized by the MSTD,” the officer said adding that by using e-discovery tools, the digital evidence will be made presentable and admissible under the IT act. This, the official said, will help spot deliberate tax evasion and help in revenue enhancement.
The department will initially be spending approximately Rs 50 lakh on the project and as the laboratory develops further investments would be made.
The laboratory will have personnel from the MSTD and 2-3 experts would also be hired who would impart training so that in the future the lab is indigenously managed by MSTD staff.