ROLE OF FORENSICS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Author: Richa Bohra, 3rd Year, BBA LL.B (H), Amity Law School, Amity University Rajasthan

FORENSIC IN LAW

The word “forensic” originates from a Latin word “forenses” which means of or before the forum.[1] A forum in Rome (earlier) denotes a public place where judicial proceedings and debates take place and the criminal case is presented before the public. Therefore, we could say that the relationship or the association of forensic science with the law is extremely close and is being continued for decades. Forensic science can be understood as the nexus of science, law, policy and investigation. It could be observed as a process that comprehends a crime from the court.

Forensic Science defines it as “The application of science to those criminal and civil laws that are enforced by the police agencies in a criminal justice system”[2]. It involves knowledge and methodology of various disciplines of science connected to legal matters. It includes the use of different techniques such as physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, medicine, pharmacy and engineering for evidence analysis. For instance use of biology in the matters of  DNA examination,  It is among the vital sources, having the competence to dispense criminal, civil justice.  Its purpose is to provide administration to those accompanying criminal investigations by acknowledgement and recovery of pieces of evidence at crime scenes and accurate information upon which they can rely in resolving criminal and civil disputes.  In present times, Forensic science is a highly developed scientific procedure that is used in criminal and civil investigations, it can answer important questions and forms an integrated part of the criminal justice system[3]. It encompasses all well-known and prominent techniques such as fingerprint analysis, DNA analysis, ballistics and explosives, firearms, culture etc. It helps in serving justice by convicting the guilty one and exonerating the innocent one.

SCOPE OF FORENSIC SCIENCE

Forensic Biology/DNA:  it is one of the most common techniques being used, the biological evidence in its profiling includes saliva, blood, hair, semen etc.

Forensic Odontology: it is used to identify the face of the victim when their body is left behind in an unrecognizable state. This could be done by examining the overall structure of the mouth and face of the dead person.

Forensic Toxicology: it is one of the utmost significant disciplines of forensic science in the road accidents (drink and drive), sexual violence etcetera as it involves scrutiny of samples to check the presence of toxic and drug substance in a human body.

Forensic Anthropology:  this study is used to identify the victim, in cases where their body is so distorted that one can’t recognize the person’s identity. It is the analysis of human remains which helps to determine the age, height, gender etcetera of the human dead body.

Forensic Pathology and Medicolegal Death Investigation: it is used to identify the main cause or the reason behind the death of the human being, which is done by examining the corpse of the dead. A forensic pathologist can, therefore, draw crucial inferences on whether the death is natural, criminal or accidental.

Ballistics: it deals with the motion, behaviour, dynamics, effects of warheads such as bullets, rockets. Say for example a bullet is recovered from the body of a person, with the help of this technique it could be revealed the size of the bullet, from which it is fired, at what distance the accused was standing while he fired the gunshot and other information could be received.

ROLE OF FORENSIC SCIENCE:

Forensic science is a part of the most momentous features of the criminal justice system. Primarily, it deals with the search of scientific and physical signs collected from the crime scene. It then clarifies the uniqueness (who) of the suspect who committed the crime. The evidence lay down nature (what) of the crime committed. The circumstantial evidence that relies on interference to connect it to a concluding fact, speaks about the time (when) of the incident. The forensic evidence verifies the location of the offence (where) the crime scene. The forensic investigation also observes the method (how) of the offender. Finally, comes to conclude the reason behind the crime. The forensic investigators recreate the distinctiveness of the criminal and the victim[4]

The accumulation and the usage of forensic sciences have helped a lot for criminal investigation and trials. It helps in decision making throughout the trial, even pre-trial also. For instance, in case of an acid attack, the examination of chemical used the fingerprints on the bottle of acid etc. reports by Forensic Science Labs (FSL) and doctors play an essential role in criminal judgements or in the Trace Evidences: that evidence which is easily transferable from objects, people during a crime scene. They create a nexus between the suspect, victim and the crime scene. It includes evidence such as fibres, soil, and residue etc.. For example, the shoe prints or impression found at the crime scene and the same soil and shoe size match with the suspect, which confirms the presence of the suspect at the crime scene. It plays a very essential role by aiding the judiciary to solve the intricate or complicated cases by providing scientifically based information such as in case of rape, the study of forensic biology and its techniques are applied such as the sample of semen is checked and then matched with the accused (on whom the victim claims that this person did her rape). The court after applying the cardinal rule of criminal jurisprudence that is to inspect each minute detail of the evidence admitted before the trial closely, thereafter,  continues with its further investigation to determine whether the suspect is guilty or not.

Since applying these various scientific techniques and disciplines is beyond the scope of the judges to ascertain and establish the truth, forensic science helps it. Due to the emergence of DNA technology as a modern method of forensic science, provides a wonderful amount of information to the investigating officers that enable him to find the criminal purely based on scientific evidence which he has left at the location of the crime[5].

LEGALITY/ LEGAL FRAMEWORK CONCERNING THE ADMISSIBILITY OF FORENSIC EVIDENCE:

A criminal trial is one of the most crucial stages in criminal-cases. Nowadays it requires not only the applicability of the judicial mind but also the applicability of the forensic scientific evidence. Since above only we discussed the role of forensic science in our proceedings, the relationship between law and forensic science is unavoidable and the value of the same is increasing day by day.  During the last three decades, forensic scientific evidence has been seriously criticized. Serious criticisms were leveled against the reliability of many lists in forensic identification evidence, due to some of the ethical problems in the forensic scientific discipline.[6] The challenges facing scientific evidence qua criminal cases are broadly classified into four major headings viz., system or control problems, accuracy problems, honesty problems, and lawyer skills problems.[7] Another major problem regarding the presentation of the evidence or we can say the screening of the evidence into the courtroom are in a disgraceful condition, the experts just provide the report whether the sample matches or not, this, is not sufficient to check the probative value of the evidence because with this form of evidence it is difficult to determine the individuality excluding others having the possibility of similar characteristics[8]. Even the forensic evidence proves to be worthless if the evidence is unable to communicate the same in the form of probabilistic calculations in the trial to the court and the judge.

Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution is also issued for the legality of the admissibility for certain forensic evidence as article 20(3) reads as “No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”.[9] Many people had in their mind that giving the impression of the palms and fingers, saliva or urine sample is a violation of their fundamental article under 20(3). But the Supreme Court in State of Bombay v. Kathi Kalu Oghad, [10] held that ‘To be a witness’ may be equivalent to ‘furnishing evidence’ in the sense of making the oral or written statement, but not in the larger sense of the expression to include giving of thumb impression or impression of palm or foot or fingers or specimen writing or exposing a part of the body by an accused person for purposes of identification”. The same has been constituted before the bench of eleven judges. Even Section 73[11], Evidence Act, authorizes a court trying a criminal case, in the interest of justice; the court can direct an accused person appearing before it, to give his sample writing to enable the same to be compared by a handwriting expert approved by the court, with any disputed writing by the accused[12].

The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, doesn’t speak much about evaluating the forensic evidence by the trial judge, further; the forensic report is regarded as a “belief” tendered by an expert[13]. Section 45[14] merely defines who is an expert, i.e. He is one who has devoted time and knowledge to a special branch of learning and is thus especially skilled in that field wherein he is called to give his expert judgment.[15] The reliability of the evidence depends on the expert only, how he supports his reports, what all reasons are behind it, as the judges are not trained in science, therefore it is difficult for them to know the importance of a small sample also and for this reason many a time the judges disagree with the conclusion drawn by these experts, which puts the value of the forensic evidence in pitiable condition. Reliability is the primary reason that makes scientific proof more attractive.[16] The courts were considering competency of the expert as a criterion for admissibility rather than the reliability of the scientific theory or technique used for the criterion   for arriving at a particular conclusion.”[17]

The National Draft Policy on Criminal Justice Reforms has suggested that Indian Evidence Act needs some amendments to make scientific evidence admissible as ‘substantive evidence’ rather than ‘opinion evidence’ and establish its probative value, depending on the sophistication of the concerned scientific discipline.[18]

Even the trial courts should be able to differentiate among the following terms- accuracy, validity and reliability. In Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc[19] ,the United States SC has specifically provided the guidelines to trial judges concerning the admissibility of the evidence, they must focus on the principles, the methodology used by the experts to drive to a particular conclusion, then only the judge should make his judgment.

REALITY OF FORENSIC EVIDENCE:

If we look at the reality of the usage of the forensic evidence in the law of courts is not much, the courts had to hang on severely on the non-scientific evidence due to the non-availability of proper technologies. The study conducted in 2011 by the Supreme Court and High court shows only 47 cases; DNA has played an important role. Out of these, 23.4% decisions were given by Delhi High Court alone. Furthermore, DNA evidence had been used in merely 4.7% murder cases and 2.3% rape and murder.[20]

The Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System has stated that the existing stage of applicability of forensic science in crime scene investigation is quite low in our country, with only 5-6% of the registered crime cases being referred to the  Forensic Science Laboratories and Finger Print Bureau put together.[21]

Delayed inspection or delay in the collection of the samples also creates a problem, which might lead to inaccurate and unreliable reports as the sample may get damaged. And this puts a question on the admissibility of the evidence and the reports during the trial.

CONCLUSION:

The main motive of the criminal trial is to serve justice to the society and the victim, and the role of forensic science and evidence plays a crucial role in serving this purpose. But in India the usage of the forensic evidence is very low even the Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System has also stated the same at the applicability of forensic science at the crime scenes is moderately low. Forensic helps us to get the answer of a lot of questions regarding who, when, where, how what is required it to use the scientific technology appropriately  in an effective and efficient manner.


[1] Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, UK, Oxford University Press, 2007.

[2] Unknown Author, Forensic Science plays a pivotal role in the legal system, Incognito Forensic Foundation, (31st Jul 2020, 5:00 PM) https://ifflab.org/the-importance-of-forensic-science-in-criminal-investigations-and-justice/

[3]  IshaTyagi and Nivedita Grover, Development of Forensic Science and Criminal.

[4]  N. B. Narejo, M. A. Avais, Examining the Role of Forensic Science for the InvestigativeSolution of Crimes, 252 SURJ (SCIENCE SERIES) Vol. 44(2) 2012.

[5] 8Jyotirmoy Adhikary, DNA Technology in Administration of Justice, (LexisNexis, Butterworths, 2007).

[6] Pereira, Quality Assurance in Forensic Science, 28, Forensic Science International (1985).

[7] Richard H. Underwood, Evaluating Scientific and Forensic Evidence, 24 Am. J. Trial Advoc. 149(2000).

[8] V.R. Dinkar (2015) Forensic Evidence: Problems and Pitfalls in India. Int J Forensic Sci Pathol 3(2), 79-84.

Pratap, C.E. (2020). Scientific validity of Forensic Evidence in Trial.

[9] INDIA CONST. art.20, cl.3.

[10] AIR 1961 SC 1808, 1962 SCR (3) 10.

[11] The Indian Evidence Act 1872, Act no. 1, 1872.

[12] State (Delhi Administration) v. Pali Ram, AIR 1979 SC 14 : (1979) 2 SCC 158

[13] Applicability of Forensic Science in Criminal Justice System in India With Special Emphasis on Crime Scene Investigation

Medico-Legal Desire Media and Publications, Medico-Legal Reporter, Inaugural Issue, June 2018 ISSN NO: 2347-3525

[14]  The Indian Evidence Act 1872, Act no. 01, 1872.

[15] Pragati Ghosh , Evidentiary Value of Expert Evidence under Indian Evidence Act, 1872, http://www.shareyouressays.com/119180/evidentiary-value-of-expert-evidence-under-indianevidence-act-1872,   (accessed on 26.05.2018).

[16] Paul C. Giannelli, The Twenty first Annual Kenneth J. Hodson Lecture: Scientific Evidence in Criminal Prosecution, 137 Mil L Rev 167 (1992).

[17] C.E. Pratap, Scientific Evidence in Criminal Investigation (2015), CTC Publication Private Limited, Chennai, p.62.

[18] Report of the Committee on Draft National Policy on Criminal Justice, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, July, 2007.

[19] 125 L Ed 2d 469 (1993).

[20] The Role of DNA in Criminal Investigation- Admissibility in Indian Legal System and Future     Perspectives,15-21 IJHSSI Vol. 2 (2013).

[21] Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Report, Volume 1, March 2003.


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