Learning from recent acquittals of some alleged Naxals in various cases due to dearth of sufficient data, the police have now decided to strengthen forensic evidence collection procedures at crime scenes in Maoist-infested areas.
Recently, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Anup Kumar Singh, who heads the state anti-Naxal operation (ANO) cell in Nagpur, acknowledged that forensic evidence could be of tremendous use in investigation of cases pertaining to Naxalism.
He also issued guidelines in which he categorically emphasised on the use of forensic evidence.
“It has been observed that during the investigation of offences related to Naxalism, there is very little use of forensic evidence,” he had stated, adding, “Most of the evidence is oral in nature. As a result, majority of these offences end up in acquittal of the accused.”
“The officials feel a need to strengthen the forensic evidence collection procedure following some acquittals in Naxal attack cases recently,” said a police officer from the ANO cell in Nagpur. “In the last week of April, a court in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district acquitted a tribal schoolteacher Soni Sori and 13 others in a case related to Naxal attack on a local Congress leader in 2010. The court let them off due to lack of sufficient evidence,” he added.
Meanwhile, Suvez Haque superintendent of police, Gadchiroli district, which is reeling under Naxal onslaught, claimed that the main reason for acquittals of Naxal operatives in several cases is witnesses turning hostile. “If there is ample forensic evidence, then chances of an accused’s exoneration diminish,” he said.
In most cases, the operations take place in dense forests where there are no witnesses. If cops get one person as witness, he or she often turns hostile during the trial.
Picking up the signs
Evidence from posters
Handwritten posters, printed posters, cloth banners or graffiti on walls containing messages from the Naxals are a common feature in the stronghold of Naxals.
>> In all such posters, the common denominators are the person making the poster, paper or cloth used, and the instrument of writing, like a sketch pen or a locally-made brush, ink or paint. While searching the house of a suspect, cops can look for paper, cloth, pen, paint, brush, ink, glue and other stationery material similar to the one used in the poster found. The cops can then compare the paper or cloth found in the search with the poster found at the scene.
>> Handwriting of the suspect should be compared with the scrawl on the posters.
>> During the search, if a brush is recovered, then its pattern or the signature can be matched with one on the posters.
>> Local brushes are made from local plants or reed. The brush can be matched with the local vegetation and linked botanically.
>> Ink used on the posters can be matched with the seized material
Can be retrieved from the camp, living area and common kitchens. Fingerprints can be lifted from used utensils, furniture and training equipment.
>> DNA can be obtained from toothbrushes, bidi butts, plastic glass, gutka and combs.
>> Slippers, sandals and shoes of Naxals found on the scene can be used to obtain fingerprints, footprints or shoeprints.
>> The bomb ingredients should be categorised and analysed.
>> The ingredients — like containers, wrappings, fuse wires, adhesive tapes and circuits — can be the signatures of a particular group of Naxals.
>> Hands, clothes, pockets, fingernails, under rings and skin creases need to be checked thoroughly as residue of explosives can be found on the suspect’s body part.
Call Details Report (CDR) analysis is useful for understanding the relationship between the caller and the receiver.
>> Tower location of phone calls in jungles is useful as the geographical location of both caller and receiver can be found out.
>> Audio-Visual, Polygraph and brain fingerprinting are other evidences that can be used.