Last year, city resident Narinder Thakur’s 28-year-old son Sahil, a budding cricket player, was found dead under mysterious circumstances at his rented accommodation in Chandigarh.
The police started an investigation and sent the deceased’s viscera for examination to the State Chemical Examiner Laboratory at Kharar, the lone facility in the state for viscera sample testing. Months later, there is no sign of the analysis.
The reason, the huge pendency of samples to be analysed at the lab, with over 2,000 samples (in cases of unnatural death) pending at any given day. With the capacity to handle around 125 samples a month and 450-500 new samples being received in the same period, cases continue to pile up.
Viscera examination is required in unnatural death cases where apparent cause of the mortality is unclear.
However, a recent government decision to set up new labs at Jalandhar, Bathinda and Ludhiana could ease the pressure, but that day seems years away.
“Delayed forensic reports are a major cause of rising pendency of court cases,” said senior criminal lawyer Maninder Pal Singh.
Due to the unavailability of these reports, efforts to take up these cases in fast-track courts also flounder, he claimed.
“There have been instances where bail has been denied to innocent people who had to languish in jails for no faults of theirs as viscera reports of the deceased took more than a year,” he said.
“There is no provision of compensation to such people which is very unfair,” he added. However he admitted that the delay sometimes benefitted the real culprits.
In many cases, chargesheets have been filed, but the trial cannot proceed as forensic reports are necessary to support the charges. Police say this gap in getting the reports makes it difficult to track the the accused, who escape in the meantime.
Nearly 10,000 cases registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act are pending examination at the Kharar laboratory and at Mohali. NDPS cases are handled at both Kharar and Mohali.
“Samples keep pouring in large numbers but we have only one lab and limited staff. There are five analysts for NDPS samples and four for viscera testing. Things will improve when the proposed labs at Jalandhar, Bathinda and Ludhiana start functioning and the burden of the NDPS cases will be shared,” said chief chemical examiner Dr Gurpal Singh. He claimed that samples related to rape and dowry cases were examined on priority.
Long ago, the forensic laboratory dispatched these reports to civil hospitals concerned, where post mortems were conducted, but now the reports are sent to the office of the SSPs. In case of emergency, investigation officers sometimes visit the lab to collect reports.
2,000 cases average pendency of sample at lab in Kharar
125 cases Kharar lab can analyse per month
500 cases received at the lab during the same period