Pune: Sakhi Suraksha Advanced DNA Forensic Laboratory, dedicated to women-related cases, will be set up in Pune and Mumbai in the next three months to address the gap in forensic DNA analysis of pending sexual assault cases.
The lab in Mumbai would be funded by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) while Pune lab will be funded by Union Home Ministry. Also, such labs will come up in Chennai, Guwahati and Bhopal.
The first such lab was inaugurated by WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi in Chandigarh on June 1. The minister added that the lab is being set up as a model forensic lab and would be replicated in other parts of the country. The Pune lab will be part of Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Pune.
The minister mentioned that the current capacity of CFSL, Chandigarh, is less than 160 cases per year and the Sakhi Suraksha Advanced DNA Forensic Laboratory is estimated to increase the capacity to 2,000 cases per year.
After the establishment of the five advanced labs, the total minimum annual capacity of the labs will reach 50,000 cases. To meet international standards and deliver timely justice to women, advanced forensic DNA laboratories with latest high throughput DNA technology are required, she added. Underscoring the importance of the forensics in nabbing the culprits in sexual assault cases, the minister said that special forensic kits for rape would be distributed to all the police stations and hospitals by July. These inviolable kits will be used for providing uncontaminated evidence.
These kits would contain a complete list of evidences/samples to be collected along with equipment required to collect the evidence. The kits would be locked and sealed before being sent to forensic labs. The details of the name of the person, date and time of sealing the kit would be recorded in the kit.
In sexual assault cases, the ideal timeframe to complete the examination and submission of the report is 90 days. Furthermore, it is important that the biological crime exhibit is stored and preserved in a scientific manner so as to make any examination/ reporting meaningful.
At present, there are 6 Central Forensic Science Labs (CFSLs) in Chandigarh, Guwahati, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Pune and Bhopal and one State Forensic Science Lab in each State/UT. These labs are responsible for conducting forensic analysis of all cases in the country including sexual assault, criminal paternity and homicide.
Apart from the sexual assault and homicide unit, the other three units are interlinked and will work to examine cases related to crime against women. Paternity unit is essential for solving cases related to criminal paternity, gender selection and child swapping in hospitals. Human identification unit is important in cases of missing person or children.
Mitochondrial unit will conduct Mitochondrial DNA analysis in cases where regular nuclear DNA analysis is not possible such as in case of highly degraded samples. The Mitochondrial unit can also be used to better explore family relationships.
Forensic science plays a vital role in the criminal justice delivery system by providing investigators with scientifically based information through the analysis of physical evidence. With increasing reports of crime against women such as sexual assault, foeticide, homicide, etc, there is an increasing demand for better scientific analysis of physical evidence. Scrutiny by the courts demands more admissible, accurate and powerful forensic proof for human individualisation.
For better scientific analysis
In Sakhi Suraksha Advanced DNA Forensic Laboratory, four units are to be established to address cases related to women:
- Sexual Assault and Homicide Unit
- Paternity Unit
- Human Identification Unit
- Mitochondrial Unit