A Profile of Forensic Science In Juristic Journey
by Justice Jitendra N. Bhatt
Cite as : (2003) 8 SCC (Jour) 25
Forensic Science is an important branch of jurisprudence. It is a potent and powerful weapon in the armoury of administration of justice. Forensic Science provides scientific study for investigation of crime. The growth, development and use of Forensic Science in detection of crime in developed countries is tremendous and increasing with new techniques. The area of Forensic Science in India has, yet, not been fused, as it ought to have been after more than five decades of post-independence era and more so when an average acquittal rate is alarmingly high. Therefore, in our country, also, the necessity and importance of Forensic Science hardly needs any emphasis.
It cannot be gainsaid that there is lack of understanding and appreciation of the importance of specialists in general, by non-specialists, in all fields. The field of Forensic Science is no exception. Many a time, neither the judge, nor the lawyer nor even the police appreciates fully, the advances or the extensive, promising potentialities of the science and the fusion of new technologies, methodologies, modalities and research. Multitask and multiprofessional nature of Forensic Science needs an interprofessional approach, which is, many a time, lacking. Therefore, sincere and serious efforts are required to be made to eliminate personal and professional bias of the involved personnel and professionals.
No doubt, Forensic Science in criminal investigation and trial, is mainly concerned with materials and therefore, indirectly through materials, with men, places and time. Forensic Science embraces all branches of science and applies them to the purposes of law. It may be stated that earlier all the techniques were borrowed from various scientific disciplines like Chemistry, Medicine, Surgery, Photography, Physics, Biology and Mathematics, but, in the recent past, this science has achieved its own faculties and branches, which are more or less, exclusively the domain of Forensic Science.
The operation of Forensic Science is nothing but application of techniques and methods of basic science techniques for various analyses of the evidence associated with crimes. The scientific examination by Forensic Scientists adjoins a missing link or strengthens a weak chain of investigation.
The following areas and factors have given rise to the emergence of immediate need for use, study and application of Forensic Science:
(i) social changes,
(ii) hiding facilities,
(iii) technical knowledge,
(iv) widening field of criminality, and
(v) better evidence.
Various systematic uses of Forensic Science would provide significant assistance in reaching the answer to the following questions:
(i) Has the crime been committed?
(ii) How and when was the crime committed?
(iii) Who committed the crime?
It may also be noted that proper use of tools and techniques of Forensic Science in the investigation of crime and the knowledge of such science to the important functionaries and components of the administration of justice would be very useful, for being the key to the detection of crime, identifying the criminal and providing help to the victims of the crime.
Law-enforcement agencies refer to Forensic Experts to help solve mysterious situations concerning human life and thereby, provide help and useful contribution to the criminal courts in the voyage for search of truth in criminal trials. Forensic Science deals with various aspects, including routine post-mortem to sophisticated tracking piece like DNA analysis.
The modern advancement and use of tools and techniques of latest research in the Forensic Science, is, therefore not only essential or expedient, but imperative, which can be provided through:
(a) Academic courses.
(c) Dissemination of principles like individuality, exchange, law of progressive change, comparison, analysis and law of probabilities.
The tools and techniques employed in Forensic Science Laboratories belong to both classical and modern categories, through the following major faculties:
(iv) invisible rays ultraviolet rays, infrared rays;
(viii) laser techniques;
(x) neutron-activation analysis;
(xi) x-ray diffraction analysis;
(xii) DTA, NMR polarography.
Forensic Science can generally, also, be described as a science pertaining to law. But in particular, it works as the branch, which is used mainly in criminal investigation and findings of which can lead to arrests and convictions. Forensic Science is the application to those civil and criminal laws that are enforced by the police agencies in criminal justice system. Undoubtedly, scientific investigations generate evidence in favour of the victims and against the accused. Forensic Science helps in providing the identity of the culprit or an accused who willingly or unwillingly, in most of the cases, leaves the signature of his crime and thereby, making the job of an investigator much easier in proving the culpability with the aid of Forensic Science. Unfortunately, techniques and methodology with necessary materials used extensively in Western countries has, yet, not successfully clicked in India because of a variety of reasons and one of them is the investment of huge finance. This science is also, at times, useful in finding out the truth in some of the civil cases. It will be disturbing to know that Forensic Science education is available in only four or five universities in India, whereas, in the USA, the number of such universities is more than ninety in which various courses suitable for the investigators, lawyers and independent practitioners are offered. As a matter of fact, Forensic Science Consultancy is essential for law practitioners not only in matters relating to criminal law, but also in civil disputes and regulatory law violations. Forensic Scientists in many cases provide important clues and guidance to the investigators in selecting and detecting incriminating objects and items from the crime scene.
The Forensic Science Division of the Bureau of Police Research and Development is manned by the Chief Forensic Scientist or Director (FS). This division undertakes the monitoring of the functions of the three Central Forensic Science Laboratories located at Calcutta, Hyderabad and Chandigarh, three Government Examiners of Questioned Documents located at Calcutta, Hyderabad, Shimla and Neutron Activation Analysis Unit under CFSL, Hyderabad at BARC, Mumbai. All the Directors of the Central Forensic Science Laboratories and Heads of Government Examiners of Questioned Documents function under the direct supervision of the Director (FS)/Chief Forensic Scientist. BP&RD Laboratories provide forensic, analytical and advisory services, on referral basis, in those instances where sophisticated equipment and special knowledge is not available. The set-up, required material, tools and techniques, trained personnel like experts etc. are inadequate and insufficient when we look at the astronomical arrears and issue of docket explosion and average to very low rate of conviction.
No doubt, Forensic Scientists are mostly presented as expert witnesses at the instance of the prosecution. The practice of the defence producing Forensic Scientists or the courts consulting on their own listed experts is not very much in vogue. As a matter of fact, there is an acute need to bridge the communication gap that presently exists between lawyers, judges and Forensic Scientists. An independent analysis and evaluation of the scientists data and any subsequent testimony that may follow again depends on the judges familiarity and understanding of the principles of Forensic Science.
The National Institute of Forensic Science, New Delhi, which was set up in 1972, has been undertaking research and training in Criminology and Forensic Science. It holds integrated in-service training programmes for the functionaries of criminal justice system.
DNA is the abbreviation of deoxyribonucleic acid. The structure of DNA varies from individual to individual. It is the basic genetic material in all living beings. It carries the genetic code and, therefore, it is useful for proving the structure, human character, behaviour and body characteristics. DNA test is very useful for getting identification of criminals and other individuals, which is important in criminal justice. Undoubtedly, it has tremendously proved its worth, value, degree, credibility and authenticity. DNA-profiling, as such, is applicable to almost all materials and anatomy. It will be interesting to note that the quantities of DNA required for analysis are extremely small i.e. in micrograms and recent, latest techniques and surgery have shown that the requirements have become even less, whereas, the quality of evidence through DNA tests is not only macro, but also, very reliable and of high order of credence.
DNA-profiling is of great assistance in analysing, evaluating and solving the following kinds of issues:
(i) Linkage to crime.
(ii) Identification of the culprit or the victim.
(iii) Correct parentage in disputed paternity cases etc.
In Western countries, DNA test and profile is now widely employed. In a country like ours, such a test and profile may, hardly, be emphasised. Systematic programme and scientific planning ought to be started for the use of DNA test and profile. Orientation, seminars, workshops, publications ought to be carried out and methods for its utility, importance and awareness on the part of one and all concerned and functionaries in the criminal and civil justice delivery system in general and for police, courts and correctional institutions in particular.
In many developed countries, DNA test, genetic testing techniques and racmization testing based on systematic examination of teeth and bite-marks has proved to be very useful. No doubt, racmization technique is currently used in Japan and Germany. It has potential to replace the traditional method which took into account the eruption and/or fusion and falling sequence of teeth.
Intensive training programmes, orientations and colloquiums on basic principles and methods of Forensic Science should be a regular feature in our country, as they are in developed countries. A fusion of such knowledge of Forensic Science and newly developed techniques will, undoubtedly, not only provide proper perspective and dimensions, but will also lead to detection of crime, and be a great help in search of the truth. It will be useful in the prevention and control of crimes and will provide required assistance to the parties to civil disputes, as well.
Broadly, the following propositions and suggestions may be made for effective and efficient, strong and sound uses of Forensic Science in our criminal justice machinery; application and implementation of forensic science technology in our country in general and in criminal justice mechanism in particular for jubilant juristic journey:
1. Selection of Forensic Scientists should be purely on merit and should not be influenced by any other extraneous considerations.
2. Establishment of E-crime Clearing House which will be useful in early detection of electronic crimes and computer for offences and violations.
3. Infotech programme for developing an information technology system providing interregional information-sharing among law-enforcement agencies.
4. Establishment of effective research centres and development efforts for efficient and useful devices, techniques and methodologies.
5. Crime-mapping research forms one of the most significant advances in the area of Information Technology. In the criminal justice field also, crime-mapping is being used for geographic information systems. It also looks at the spatial and temporal dimensions of crime and enhances the ability of law-enforcement agencies to analyse crime efficiently. Crime-mapping research centres support the development of analytic mapping in criminal justice agencies which will be useful to support multijurisdictional data-sharing projects and strategic approaches to community safety initiative.
6. Establishment of systems and methods for detection of electronic crime or cyber crime. With the advent of the internet, has come a whole new category of crime that includes fraud, theft of services and data, copyright infringement, destruction of data through computer sabotage (viruses) and acts causing inconvenience to agencies comprising sensitive, secret or confidential functions.
7. Establishment of National Institute for Crime Identification Technology for programmes for security, technological studies and for forensic science software and other computer software systems.
8. Various departments, research institutions or centres which will help in forensic science areas such as DNA trace evidence, ballistics, toxicology, impression evidence and questioned documents must have demonstrated scientific foundations to yield strong evidence in courts at the State level also.
9. There should be an institute on the future of DNA evidence since many national commissions in Western countries have made recommendations in the areas of post-conviction-DNA-testing, laboratory funding and crime-scene-DNA-evidence-collection technique adopted by working groups for eyewitness evidence, crime scene investigation, bombing scene investigation and digital evidence.
10. Bureau of Justice Statistical and Justice Assistance may be created with sufficient funding and technical support for combating violent, organised crimes like drug abuse, large-scale international trafficking and prostitution. This will strengthen the national criminal justice system.
11. Bureau of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in each State should be established.
12. Proper mechanism and methodology for providing compensation and rehabilitation of victims of crimes.
13. National cyber-crime-training programmes so as to address the changing role of computers in the internet era in commission of crimes. It will help to develop a nationwide network to serve law-enforcement agencies by providing them with skilled connectivity on the internet.
14. Effective mechanism with the help of trained personnel and commandos and, also, with the help of Forensic Science tools and technologies for prevention of terrorism and detection and punishment to the terrorists. The State and local anti-terrorism-training programmes should be regularly undertaken in view of recent developments and, also, future trends and research.
15. Creation of Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services to promote community-policing and to add proper number of officers to the list.
16. Office of Justice Programme should be composed of important experts and jurists, and the following programmes, planning and creation of a separate set-up, may be considered:
(a) Bureau of Justice Assistance.
(b) Bureau of Justice Statistics.
(c) Office for Victims of Crimes.
(d) Corrections Programme Office.
(e) Drugs Courts Programme Office.
(f) Office for State and Local Domestic Preparedness Support.
(g) Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education.
(h) Office for Combating and Curbing Violence Against Women.
17. The programme leading to the Bachelors and Masters in Forensic Science Degrees in various universities and reputed institutions will help to promote and develop general understanding of the multidisciplinary nature of criminal justice and to expose the students to some in-depth examination and evaluation of topics related to careers in criminal justice realm. The students desirous of joining such a career in Forensic Science should be encouraged not only by law and enforcement agencies, but also, by NGOs and other connected institutions as they are encouraged to consult one of the Forensic Science faculty concerning the requirements for completion of individually designed measures in this multidisciplinary field. In some developed countries, through the Department of Justice Science, such programmes have been undertaken.
18. The curriculum should be systematically prepared for the students of Forensic Science for the purpose of proper understanding, examination and survey of major components of Forensic Science, such as death investigation, Toxicology, Osteology, document examination, Psychiatry, Oncology, Law and Criminalistics. It would not only open a treasure for introduction to Forensic Science, but will also help to provide scientific fact-finding approach and application of educative and indicative reasonings. In many Western countries, such programmes have greatly helped mainly the three important organs and functionaries like the police, judiciary and correctional components of criminal justice system. It will help to create systematic legal culture. It will also help in improving corrections focussing on probation, prisons, parole and community-based programmes for adults as well as juveniles.
19. Programme for advanced studies and legal research in criminal justice methods, uniform crime reports and demographic studies and also for juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice system should be launched.
20. Extensive training, interaction and refresher programmes are useful for three chief organs and components of criminal justice administration i.e. police, courts and corrections, which would help for organisation and management of three important functions in the realm of Forensic Science and Criminology. The following important areas like Criminology, Anthropology, Entomology, which would help the aforesaid three main organs in the administration of justice.