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Long wait at Delhi’s forensic labs leading to rising backlog of police cases

Statistics show forensic reports in 7,135 cases sent to forensic science laboratory Delhi’s Rohini between 2006 and 2018 are still pending which means investigation in these cases is incomplete.

delhi Updated: Jul 17, 2018 13:39 IST
Karn Pratap Singh
Karn Pratap Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
delhi,Delhi news,Delhi Police
A Delhi Police officer and forensic experts collect the samples outside Rohini court in New Delhi on April 29, 2017. Data shows pendency rate at Delhi’s forensic labs is steadily increasing.(Sonu Mehta/HT File Photo )

Were the 11 members of the Burari family poisoned before their deaths? Were the notes recovered from the house actually written by three members of the family? Was there a 12th person in the house at the time of the hanging?

The Delhi Police, which practically ruled out murder, appeared to have answers to all these questions. But to scientifically prove their claims in court, the police would have to wait for all forensic reports related to the case.

And that could take at least three months.

As the probe has been put on the fast-track mode, the three-month is wait much less than what it generally takes for such reports to be generated in most other crimes.

Police statistics show forensic reports in 7,135 cases sent to Delhi’s forensic science laboratory (FSL) in Rohini between 2006 and 2018 (till June 30) are still pending, which means investigation in these cases is incomplete.

The data shows the pendency rate is rising every year even though the number of cases police send to the laboratory for forensic examination has seen a marginal increase.

In 2013, police had sent around 8,500 cases to the forensic lab whereas in 2017, a little less than 10,000 cases were sent. Police data shows that even after five years, forensic examination in 161 cases of 2013 is still pending. Similarly, police are yet to receive forensic reports of around 1,900 cases of 2017. This year, till June 30, the police sent around 4,000 cases. The reports of around 3,000 cases are awaited.

The pendency is accumulating despite steps taken to reduce the workload of FSL staff. The steps include sending select samples to the Central Bureau of Investigation’s central forensic science laboratory (CFSL) and forensic labs in Hyderabad, Chandigarh and Gandhinagar in Gujarat.

That apart, two police districts have been given mobile forensic vans and a private laboratory has been permitted to conduct forensic examinations.

Deepa Verma, FSL director, attributed the pendency of cases to the shortage of experts and prioritisation of cases. “Several posts are vacant in FSL but the process to fill them is still under way. The existing staff are overburdened. They visit crimes scenes, examine collected forensic samples and prepare the reports. Then there are sensational and important cases in which forensic reports are prepared on priority basis,” said Verma.

According to FSL’s standard operating procedure, forensic examinations are conducted in a chronological order and completing examination and preparing reports of viscera, chemicals, documents and DNA samples is a time-consuming process, Verma explained .

On the role of scientific evidence in criminal cases, advocate Sumer Kumar Sethi said they are key to establishing the prosecution’s version. “Due to delay in forensic reports, the trial is prolonged for no reason and justice is delayed. It affects both the parties (victim as well as accused),” Sethi said.

Deputy commissioner of police (crime) Rajan Bhagat, who heads the crime investigation team, said, “Scientific evidence plays a crucial role in criminal cases, especially serious cases such as murder and sexual crimes. Since the role of forensic experts in each and every crime has become important, we work in close coordination.”

A police officer, who was part of the team that probed the 2012 gangrape case, said it was forensic and electronic evidence such as matching of the DNA profile of the victim and the accused, finger prints, orthodontics reports and mobile phone locations of the accused that helped them prove the accused guilty in court.

First Published: Jul 17, 2018 13:38 IST