Forensic labs face manpower shortage, 40% posts vacant: Centre tells Supreme Court
Over 40 % posts in forensic laboratories are vacant, the Centre informed the Supreme Court on Thursday. Forensic labs under the central government, too, are facing acute manpower shortage, the affidavit submitted to the court said.
The data was placed before a bench of justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta, which was hearing a matter related to deficiencies in jails as highlighted by two apex court judges (one of them retired) during their visit to Faridabad jail and an observation home in June this year.
Delay in receiving forensic reports is one of the reasons why criminal trials drag on for years. At the last hearing, the bench had asked the Centre to place before it the status of vacancies in forensic departments across the country.
As per the government submission, there are six Central Forensic Science Laboratories -- in Bhopal, Chandigarh, Guwahati, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Pune. As many as 164 posts are lying vacant against the sanctioned strength of 450. At the Delhi forensic lab, 67 posts are vacant. Thirty-one units operate under state forensic laboratories where 3,685 appointments are yet to be made. The sanctioned strength is 7,582.
Shocked at the alarming number of vacancies, the judges took a dig at the Centre and states. “We are sure these vacancies are not at lower position but at the higher level...Peons are always appointed on time because one officer needs at least three peons to work for him. When you sanction posts then money is not a problem because it’s part of planned expenditure,” justice Gupta said.
Additional solicitor general Aman Lekhi said the process to make appointments in these labs would not be a time-bound one since the top court is seized of the matter. At this justice Lokur said: “The process is underway for 20 years. How do we have speedy trial? The problem is that everybody is with us (in view) but nobody does anything.”
The judges read the state-wise breakup and pointed out how the lab in Rajasthan was working with just 50 per cent strength. In Uttar Pradesh, 830 of 1,100 posts are vacant while in Bihar, only 65 of 191 positions are occupied. Similarly in Gujarat, 384 of 931 posts are vacant.
Lekhi admitted that the state of affairs was dismal. Advocate Guarav Agarwal, assisting the court in the case, suggested that the court take up a batch of five states and summon their officials to know the progress of appointments. But justice Lokur said: “If they are summoned, they will take their travel allowance and simply come and say that they are looking into it.”
The court was also informed that 20 states had chosen not to apprise the Centre about the installation of video-conferencing facilities in their juvenile justice homes. Of the ones that shared the details, only Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh have provided the facility.
The SC gave the Centre one week to collate the data from states and scheduled the next hearing on November 29.