Swati Maliwal, Chairperson, Delhi Commission for Women said, “Between 2012 and 2014, Delhi Police registered 31,446 cases for crime against women but less than 150 convictions were made. Criminals are not scared anymore. This needs to change. There is a dire need to strengthen investigative and forensic infrastructure in the city.”
While DNA evidence was key in proving the guilt of Nirbhaya’s perpetrators beyond doubt, majority of the victims in cases of rape and violence against women continue to be denied scientific investigations based on DNA forensics.
Internationally, DNA forensics is used as a standard operating procedure in crimes against women. However, not enough DNA is being ‘collected’, ‘tested’ and ‘compared’ in crime scenes in India, which amounts to poor conviction, very high pendency rate and resulting huge backlogs. GTH estimates, that the United Kingdom, has over 60,000 DNA tests completed for crime scenes annually, while in India, with a population thirteen times greater, crime labs are able to complete only 7,500 cases annually.
According to Tim Schellberg, President, Gordon Thomas Honeywell-Governmental Affairs, “Across the world, it has been found that perpetrators are much more likely to plead guilty when DNA forensics are used, and the convictions are much higher than without DNA forensics, saving the court and the police time and resources.”
Addressing the issue today, in a move to create a wider public opinion, Shakthi Vahini, an NGO fighting crime against women and children, organized a daylong forum on strengthening investigative procedures for sexual assault and rape cases in India. The panel discussed crucial forensic techniques which are missing with investigative agencies, lack of proper training in handling evidence, compulsory collection of DNA evidence in sexual assault cases against women and underfunded forensic labs.
Ravi Kant, Senior Advocate at Supreme Court and President of Shakti Vahni said, “If India has to send a strong message to criminals and instil in them the fear of law, we have to ensure that evidence collection is strengthened. Crime scenes must be protected, crucial evidences collected, scientifically examined & analysed. We need to realise that DNA profiling offers one of the most reliable forensic tools in solving cases of sexual assault and rape.”
Section 164A of the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure mandates collection of human material from the victim for forensic testing. In several instances, the courts have also ordered for DNA testing to arrive at a judgement, particularly in cases of rape. However, considering the high crime rate, low conviction rate and prolonged trials, it appears that DNA testing is being carried out in only a small number of cases. As a result, rape and murder offenders are escaping conviction and the innocent are being wrongly punished.
Senior Advocate at Delhi High Court, Vivek Sood, said, “Fair and competent investigation in a criminal case is the backbone of criminal justice in any society. Collection of DNA evidence is equally important from the perspective of the prosecution and the defence. Hence, collection of DNA evidence, in appropriate cases can be said to be following Article 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantees to every person the fundamental right to life and liberty.”
Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs is globally recognised public affairs consultancy firm that has expertise with forensic DNA database policy, legislative, and law. For nearly twenty years, consultants at GTH-GA have consulted in over 50 countries and states on legislation and policies to establish or expand criminal offender DNA databases. GTH-GA collaborates closely with governmental officials, crime labs, police and the DNA industry. GTH-GA operates the DNAResource.com website that has been used as the world’s primary source for DNA database policy and legislative information since 2000.