Experts Demand Use of DNA Evidence to Solve Crime in India

Business Wire India

Where's The DNA? - World's Best Crime Fighting Technology

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New Delhi, Delhi, India

  • Panel recommends amendment in Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to include scientific investigation in crime
  • Science validates use of DNA as conclusive evidence in heinous crimes
  • Not enough DNA testing as GTH estimates India’s crime labs collectively complete less than 7,500 cases annually
  • DNA collected stuck in huge backlogs owing to lack of DNA testing infrastructure
‘Where’s The DNA?’first of its kind platform organised by Gordon Thomas Honeywell-GA (GTH) brings together experts from the law enforcement, judiciary, forensics, victim advocacy, academia and media groups to discuss the imperative need to build conviction, exonerate the innocent and solve crime to expedite the Indian criminal justice system! A call to action, and an appeal to law makers and enforcement groups, it is set to promote the use of DNA evidence, the world’s best crime fighting technology!

Supporting the move, Senior Advocate Rupinder Singh Suri, President Bar Association Supreme Court of India, said, “DNA evidence is key to justice delivery system! An invaluable tool, with 100% accuracy and reliability for exonerating individuals who have been wrongfully convicted. The conventional methods of investigation by the I.O/police are a passé being obsolete and unproductive. It is the scientific investigation only which kick starts the hunt for the criminal.”

There is presently no specific provision under Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to manage science, technology and forensic science issues. Due to lack of having any such provision, investigating officers have to face trouble in collecting evidences which involves modern mechanisms to prove the accused person guilty. Senior Advocate Ashok Bhan, senior member of executive of Supreme Court Bar Association, added, “There is urgent need to sensitise the law makers to incorporate provisions in CrPC and Evidence act to manage science and technology in investigation of crimes and trials.”

The law machinery world over is increasingly relying on DNA forensics to solve crime, whereas, India is way behind in adoption. Lack of scientific methods in investigations and absence of a proper policy framework in the country are hampering justice. “India, needs a more aggressive DNA ‘Collect, Test and Compare’ approach for faster convictions and disposal of cases by courts,” says, Tim Schellberg, President, GTH-GA. He adds, “Over 60,000 DNA tests are completed for crime scenes annually in the United Kingdom and GTH estimates crime labs in India able to complete only 7,500 cases tested annually. This is a shockingly low number considering India’s size of population is thirteen times greater than the United Kingdom!”

Explaining the science underlying the use of DNA evidence, Dr. Durgadas Kasbekar, INSA, Senior Scientist, Center for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), further qualifies, “DNA evidence is sufficiently conclusive to solve crime as only monozygotic twins share the same DNA profile. Different tissues; teeth, bones, blood (a drop is enough), spit, semen-detected on cloth using specific staining procedures, skin cells sloughed off with sweat, yield the same DNA profile if they are from the same individual.” Therefore, outside of identical twins, no two people have the same DNA pattern.

Sharing his perspective, Senior Advocate, Vivek Sood, Delhi High Court talked about DNA evidence as the right to fair investigation that must be made a part of the DNA of Criminal Justice in India. He said, “Fair and competent investigation in a criminal case is the backbone of criminal justice in any society. Collection of DNA evidence is equally important from the perspective of the prosecution as well as the accused. Hence, collection of DNA evidence, in appropriate cases can be said to be in compliance with Article 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantees to every person the fundamental right to life and liberty.”

Talking of strengthening investigations by DNA Profiling, Ravi Kant, Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and President of Human Rights organization, Shakti Vahini (working on anti-human trafficking and issues related to violence against women and children) expressed, “If India has to send a strong message to perpetrators of crimes and to instill the fear of the law we have to ensure that evidence collection has to be strengthened. Crime scenes have to be forensically examined, crucial evidences collected, scientifically examined & analysed. DNA Profiling offers one of the most reliable forensic evidence which can be very helpful in solving of cases”.

The session was moderated by Senior Journalist Sidharth Pandey at the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi, witnessing active support from experts, demanding use of DNA evidence and scientific approach to solve crime in India. The panel was represented by:

  • Tim Schellberg, Founder & President, Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs
  • Advocate G P Thareja, Retired and Additional District & Sessions Judge
  • N. Ramachandaran, President, Indian Police Foundation
  • Dr. Durgadas Kasbekar, INSA Senior Scientist
  • Senior Advocate Vivek Sood, Delhi High Court
  • Advocate Ravi Kant, Supreme Court of India

The panel established importance of DNA Profiling Board – A statutory body to be constituted in pursuance of 271st Law Commission Report on DNA Profiling which would undertake functions such as laying down procedures and standards to establish DNA laboratories and granting accreditation to such laboratories; and advising the concerned Ministries / Departments of the Central and State Governments on issues relating to DNA laboratories. The Board shall also be responsible to supervise, monitor, inspect and assess the laboratories. It will frame guidelines for training of the Police and other investigating agencies dealing with DNA related matters. Advising on all ethical and human rights issues relating to DNA testing in consonance with international guidelines will be another function of the Board. It will recommend research and development activities in DNA testing and related issues, etc.

Experts concluded that India must formulate rigorous quality assurance and accreditation programs for DNA testing for implementing the DNA evidence in criminal investigations. This would clearly mark distinction made between human error, attempted fraud and technical failures. While low adoption rate can be attributed to poor infrastructure and lack of policy push, the root of the problem is knowledge gaps and misconceptions about DNA forensics across all levels of our society and this dialogue and campaign on, ‘Where’s The DNA?’ is designed to eliminate just that.

About GTH-GA

Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs is globally recognised public affairs consultancy firm that has expertise with forensic DNA database policy, legislative, and law. For nearly twenty years, consultants at GTH-GA have consulted in over 50 countries and states on legislation and policies to establish or expand criminal offender DNA databases. GTH-GA collaborates closely with governmental officials, crime labs, police and the DNA industry. GTH-GA operates the website that has been used as the world’s primary source for DNA database policy and legislative information since 2000.


Aravallis undermined

By Sushmita Sengupta in Down to Earth 15.06.2009

THE Supreme Court on May 8 banned mining activities in Faridabad, Gurgaon and Mewat districts of Haryana. The ban will be in force till the state comes out with a report on how it will restore the ecology of the 450 sq km area, including the lakes around the Aravalli hills, laid waste by mining. The court passed the order on a 1995 petition that was later merged with the omnibus forest case the court has been hearing since 1996.

The apex court till now had been stressing on balancing mining with ecological concerns but satellite images showing dried lakes convinced the judges an immediate ban is needed.

The state government and the mining lobby had been using the leeway given by previous court orders to carry on mining. The restoration plan is to be evaluated by the Central Empowered Committee which advises the Supreme Court on forest related matters and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. “The court first decided to deal with the mining issue due to public outcry against the lakes drying up. Other issues like encroachment will be taken up later,” said Ravi Kant, legal adviser to the Faridabad-based non-profit, Shakti Vahini, that has been lobbying against mining in the area. The mining debris has blocked the natural channels that feed the lakes and deforestation has led to soil erosion and increased run-off that no longer recharges groundwater.

Actions and words vary

Chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on February 27 said Badkhal and Surajkund lakes in Faridabad and Dumdama lake in Gurgaon would be revived before the Commonwealth Games, 2010. But his government’s department of geology and mines went ahead with auctioning of mines in Sirohi and Khori Jamalpur villages in Faridabad on March 3, 2009, without bothering about environmental consequences. It was another matter that no one came forward with a bid because of the ongoing court case. The apex court stayed the auction on March 18.

The Badkhal and Surajkund lakes, 20 to 30 km from New Delhi, were picnic hotspots till the 1980s. Now the dry lake-beds are used for sports events to highlight their condition. The Dhauj Jheel in Faridabad too is drying.

The Supreme Court in 1996 had directed mining leases could not be renewed within two to five kilometre radius of Badkhal without permission from the central and state pollution control boards. Mining in other areas continued unabated. Hooda justified mining by saying that the lakes had not dried up because of mining alone. The mining lobby said pretty much the same in court: the groundwater depleted because Delhi Government sunk tubewells near the border.

State tourism minister Kiran Chaudhary disowned any responsibility for the lakes. She said she was responsible only for the commercial complexes in the lake resort. “The irrigation department is responsible for filling the lake,” she said.

Toxic revival plan

The only plan so far to revive the Badkhal lake, prepared by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (huda), proposed filling the dry bed with slurry from the thermal power plant near National Institute of Technology, Faridabad. Officials said the flyash would settle at the bottom of the lake and then the clear water above could be used for water sports. But water contaminated with flyash will have heavy amounts of toxic nitrates and heavy metals, pointed out S P Datta, director of Nuclear Research Laboratory, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi. “A system for removing the flyash will have to be incorporated in such a plan and that will be very costly,” he said.

As for the Surajkund lake, Chaudhary said she had given the relevant file to the culture ministry, overseeing the lake’s rejuvenation plan. The Archaeological Survey of India (asi) that has to implement the plan said it could revive the lake only if the state does something about restoring the catchment area. “The state should take care that water channels feeding the lake are not disturbed,” said B R Mani, joint director general, asi. No department is willing to take responsibility to restore the lakes; no one knows who will.