- It’s a no-brainer that the modern-day criminal investigation has to be in tune with the fast-changing times as the hardcore perpetrators of crimes also will incorporate every available means to stay clear of the investigators. You see, the technological evolution works both ways i.e., the law enforcement agencies as well as anti-social elements. Technology will not differentiate between the good and the bad, unlike human beings. As such, the onus squarely rests on the governments to ensure the criminals are checkmated by making sound technological wherewithals are made available to the law enforcement agencies like the police forces. Needless to mention, it is inevitable the police forces stay a step ahead to ensure the safety of citizens.
- Against this backdrop, where do the Indian police forces stand vis-à-vis their counterparts around the world in tracking the crimes by using the modern investigation tools made available to them? Let’s delve deep into the scenario to comprehend where our police forces are positioned to address the biggest malaise of society. A news report recently showed there’s a staggering pendency of 20,000 forensic tests at a Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) catering to Delhi police alone, and backlogs go up to 4-5 years. Now, FSL is one of the essential tools to crack modern-day crimes that are not lost on anyone. Moreover, forensics – chiefly cyber, biological/DNA, Chemistry, and ballistics – are at the core of modern criminal investigation.
- Also, good and timely forensic results upgrade the credibility of the justice system considerably. However, for every police force in the country, and not just Delhi’s, the forensic process is of little help. No less than the orders of the constitutional courts have noted the severe understaffing of FSLs. In Delhi, over 40% of sanctioned posts are lying vacant, in Karnataka and Haryana, the figure is 64%. In Odisha, which has the inglorious distinction of posting India’s second lowest conviction rate, 70% of scientific officer posts and 40% of assistant SO posts are vacant. Even CBI, the Indian premier crime investigation agency, has blamed delay at the Central FSL end for its huge pendency rate. What are the consequences of inadequate FSLs to assist the police forces? Let’s look at it.
PC: CIA India
- Charge sheets are often filed without forensic reports because of the long delay in getting results. In a domino effect, trials get delayed and under-trial prisoners are incarcerated longer, the bane clogging the judicial delivery system. No wonder, hampered by lack of evidence, the courts preside over pendency rates of over 90% in rape and other serious offenses. FSLs aren’t uniformly distributed either. For instance, more populous UP and Bengal had four and two functional FSLs, respectively while much smaller AP and Telangana had five each in 2021. Much more personnel are needed with emphasis shifting to mobile labs and crime scene expertise. The government must allocate more funds to FSLs for upgrading technologies and filling vacancies forthwith.