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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

30,125: Cases pending with forensic labs

Officials say over half the total no. of posts at 8 labs, 2 mini-labs vacant; pending reports slow down police probe

mumbai Updated: Sep 30, 2019 00:07 IST
Jayprakash S Naidu
Jayprakash S Naidu

Around 30,125 police cases were pending with the eight forensic labs and two mini-labs in the state till April, a right to information (RTI) reply by the Directorate of Forensic Sciences Laboratories (DFSL), Kalina, has revealed. Even though Krishna Kulkarni, director of DFSL Kalina, said the figures till September have decreased slightly, forensic officials pointed to a lack of manpower in these labs, with only 733 of the total 1,500 sanctioned posts filled. This has led to a delay in the investigation into these cases, said police officers.

Currently, Maharashtra has eight forensic labs in Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik, Amravati, Nanded and Kolhapur, and two mini-labs in Chandrapur and Ratnagiri. Replying to an RTI query made by HT in May, the DFSL Kalina, in September said that as of April 2019, 30,125 forensic samples sent by police stations from across Maharashtra were pending with them.

Another query, seeking the years in which the cases were sent, has not been answered.

A senior IPS official from Maharashtra Police said that though they ensure they get forensic reports in major crimes, such as gang rapes, bomb blasts, etc, on a priority basis, investigation into routine cases gets affected for several months, often up to a year, owing to pending forensic reports.

A senior Mumbai Police officer said viscera and DNA analysis reports in sexual assault cases; chemical analysis reports in suspected homicides, suicides, murders; and reports of audio recordings in graft cases are important for investigation. “Pending reports in all these cases affects the probe,” he said.

Amit Mane, 34, a defence lawyer practising in the Bombay high court, said delay in submission of forensic reports also affects the trial of cases in courts. “Particularly in heinous offences, delay in submitting chemical analysis report, or DNA and viscera report causes delay in initiating the trial. In cases where medical evidence forms the vital part of the evidence, a delay in the report can increase the accused’s chances of getting bail.”

Another Mumbai Police officer said in many cases, only forensic evidence forms the basis of a charge sheet.

“There are many unnatural death cases registered as accidental death reports; these can be murders too. Delay in the reports to prove the same can lead to a lot of suffering for the victims or their kin who are unable to claim insurance.” Retired director general (DG), legal and technical, SP Yadav said the number of pending cases has increased since 2017, when he headed the department. “The pendency was 40,000 in 2017, and we decreased it to 20,000 in six months. We had aimed to bring it down to zero by 2019. I don’t know what went wrong. You will have to speak to the current head,” he said. Hemant Nagrale, DG, legal and technical, who currently heads the department, did not reply to repeated calls and messages.

Kulkarni, meanwhile, admitted there was a lack of manpower in the labs. A forensic official, requesting anonymity, said, the labs are functioning at half their sanctioned strength and people are hired on contract, renewed every year. “Last year, those on contract were asking for permanent jobs, but the government refused it. They went to the high court and the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT), but lost the case. Till 2018, we had a sanctioned strength of around 1,000, but now it is around 1,500. Of these only 733 are filled. We have started the process to fill all posts,” he said.

Another official said that more than 60 posts of Class I and Class II officials, who play a crucial role in the forensic tests, across Maharashtra, are lying vacant. They are filled by the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC). However, phone calls and text messages to Satish Gavai, chairman of MPSC, went unanswered.

Kulkarni said in two months, they will be undertaking a special drive to bring down the pendency. “We will also start DNA testing in Nanded and Kolhapur; we currently have it in Pune, Nagpur, Mumbai, Nashik, Aurangabad and Amravati. We have cyber divisions in Mumbai, Nagpur and Pune and are planning to have it at all regional centres too. We will soon start mini-labs in Thane, Dhule and Solapur,” said Kulkarni.

First Published: Sep 30, 2019 00:07 IST

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