Do not underestimate forensics in crime

Fifteen days after the heinous alleged rape and murder of three sisters in Lakhani village in Bhandara district of Maharashtra, the police probe has reached a dead end. In a stinging report, this newspaper exposed how the doctors who conducted the autopsy were not qualified forensic experts, resulting in the police reaching the wrong conclusion.

The general public and the media, unaware of the police botch-up in the case, assumed that the three sisters may have been raped and then murdered. In the end, this may not be the case. However, the incident hit national and international headlines, was debated hotly in the media, candle-light marches were held, and the state chief minister even announced a Rs 10 lakh compensation to the family. But no one has bothered to question the police officers on the shoddy probe. Even if the motto of forensic science is that the “dead do tell tales”, investigators in India seldom use it to detect crime and bring culprits to justice.

Across the world, crime scene investigators and forensic scientists collaborate to solve crimes, whether they are cyber crimes, rapes, or just about any serious crime one can think of. In India, however, authorities seek forensic assistance as an afterthought, not as standard operating procedure. One of the prime reasons for the falling conviction rate in India (it is less than 26 per cent) is the lack of scientific evidence provided to any court. A witness can be tutored and there are high chances of him or her turning hostile.

But in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, even the most doctored witnesses cannot stand scrutiny. The state had pumped in crores to purchase crime investigation vehicles to be utilised by forensic scientists to collect vital leads in any case. However, at present, it is only the police that happen to reach the crime spot; the forensic expert is a mere bystander. This needs to change, and quick. 

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