Wednesday, 30 December 2015


NEW DELHI: The conviction rate in criminal cases in the country is below 40%, and the Supreme Court recently realized one reason why. Hearing a case of murder against a man convicted of killing his wife of three months, the two-man bench found to its horror that the some of the genetic reports being proffered as evidence had been carried out by non-experts at a private facility in violation of all norms.

Hearing an appeal by Rajiv, who was convicted by the trial court and Patna high court of murdering his wife, Archana, the Supreme Court was astounded to find that the DNA matching of a body purportedly of Archana had been so casually carried out as to nullify its value as evidence. Shyam Bihari Upadhyay, director in-charge of the Forensic Science Laboratory, Patna, had cleared the DNA report after instructing his computer operator, Sanjay Kumar, to fill out the details sent by a Gurgaon laboratory and getting Shiv Kumar, a technician who had just two days' of training at the laboratory, to sign it. He had then countersigned the document.

Even more disturbing, Upadhyay admitted to the court that he himself had no technical knowledge of DNA testing. He said he had outsourced the genetic matching to the private facility because FSL Patna was not equipped to carry out many analytical tests.

In the face of such a "substantially disquieting feature" of the case, the court could only acquit Rajiv. Writing the judgment, Justice Roy said, "We are left appalled by the incomprehensible omissions of the investigating agency ... and we would expect and require that the authorities in charge of ensuring fair, competent and effective investigation of criminal offences would take note of this serious concern of the court and unfailingly take necessary remedial steps, so much so that these observations need not be reiterated in future entailing punitive consequences."
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