Mumbai: In a seminar on ‘Role of Forensic DNA Technology in Enabling Justice’ organised at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, School of Law, experts led by the Forensic Department, King Edward Memorial Hospital acknowledged the need for enhanced training opportunities in proper collection & handling of forensic DNA evidence from the crime scene and resolved to create training opportunities for both police investigators and medical examiners.
Dr Harish Pathak, Head of Forensics, KEM Hospital, Mumbai said, “Forensic DNA science has become one of the effective enablers of justice the world over. However, the success of this technology depends on adherence to strict protocols on the ground by investigators. With the volume of DNA testing on the rise, we see the need for better training for our first responders in collection & handling of biological evidence. As a solution, we are ready to create the requisite training modules and conduct sessions for police personnel and medical examiners in Mumbai and rest of Maharashtra with the help of our partners”.
Prof. Arvind Tiwari, Dean, School of Law, Rights and Constitutional Governance, TISS added, “Scientific investigation is a precursor to fair trial to ensure justice. DNA is an unstoppable witness that has proved its credibility in the courtroom when the sanctity of biological sample is beyond any doubt. There must be zero tolerance for negligence in handling forensic samples since that can result in imperfect justice either by exoneration of the guilty or false conviction of the innocent. All stakeholders handling DNA samples in heinous crimes need to be professionally educated and equipped with kits and procedural protocols to ensure best usage of DNA evidence for assisting courts in the pursuit of truth”.
Hemant Nagrale, DG, Technical Services, Mumbai Police was quick to highlight that Mumbai’s investigators were making big strides in the use of DNA forensics to solve crimes. Nevertheless, he admitted that a lot needs to be done when it comes to educating and training police personnel in best practices for collection & handling of biological evidence. “This is not only necessary to ensure accurate matches with suspects but also to withstand legal scrutiny of DNA evidence in court”, he said.
Pointing to the huge untapped potential of forensic DNA science in empowering the Indian justice system, Dr. Walther Parson Associate Professor, Institute of Legal Medicine, Innsbruck Medical University, Austria noted, “Forensic DNA technology has advanced significantly over the last twenty years. With advanced DNA typing methods, full profiles can now be detected on extremely small biological samples. These advancements will only add to DNA’s value in solving and preventing crime. India, like several other nations, will surely experience a lasting benefit to public security by further adopting DNA testing methods”.
Tim Schellberg, Founder & President, Gordon Thomas Honeywell – GA, pointed out that the number of DNA profiles developed from crime scene evidence in India has doubled over a year from 10,000 cases tested in 2017 to nearly 20,000 this year – a miniscule number for a country of 1.3 billion people with half million reported violent crimes every year. Experts believe that to truly harness the power of forensic DNA to check crime, India has an immediate need for scaling that up by 10 times to 200,000 tests per year.
Arneeta Vasudeva, Senior Vice President & Capability Head, PR & Influence, Ogilvy India emphasised, “Sensitising first line responders with the SoPs for DNA evidence ‘collect’ and ‘test’ from crime scenes is absolutely critical to the success of any investigation. The Delhi Police, Himachal Pradesh Police and the medical forensics group at AIIMS, New Delhi, have been ramping up their forces with training on best practices for DNA casework. According to sources, this is resulting in considerable progress in the overall DNA yield from collected samples. In Mumbai too, with KEM Hospital driving the initiative, we should see a positive impact on criminal investigations and quality of conviction”.
Forensic DNA has emerged as the most reliable crime fighting technology the world over. Many countries are effectively using forensic labs and protocols to collect, test and compare DNA at crime scenes with that of suspects with promising results. Where law machinery world over is increasingly relying on DNA forensics to solve crime, the pace in India has been relatively slow. Lack of scientific methods in investigations and absence of a proper policy framework in the country continue to hamper justice.