Criminal justice system crippled owing to gross delay in getting FSL reports: HC

The High Court of Karnataka on Wednesday said the criminal justice system in the State had been severely crippled owing to gross delay in getting forensic reports while expressing “shock” over the pendency of around 35,000 samples related to nearly 7,000 criminal cases for testing before the Forensic Sciences Laboratories (FSLs).

The court directed the State government and the director of FSL to come out with measures to swiftly fill up all the vacancies, set up all testing units in every FLS, fix timeline for completing forensic analysis, and provide FSLs with modern infrastructure and equipment.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum issued the directions on a petition, initiated suo motu. The petition was initiated based on an order passed by a judge who had pointed out that both the victims of crime as well as the accused were being deprived of the right to speedy justice, including for grant of bail and the trial, owing to gross delay in submission of reports by FSLs.

The Division Bench, referring to the data of samples pending for tests with the FSLs submitted before the judge, has noted that 35,738 articles involved in 6,994 criminal cases are pending for sample analysis before the State FSL in Bengaluru and five Regional Forensic Science Laboratories (RFSLs) in Mysuru, Mangaluru, Davangere, Belagavi, and Kalaburagi.

Noticing from the data that there are 6,868 articles in 1,119 cases related to narcotics drugs, and 9,958 questioned documents pending for analysis before the FSLs as on November 30, 2020, the court expressed concern over pendency of samples for test in serious offences such as murder and those under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

As many 774 cases under the NDPC Act, 130 cases under POCSO Act, 95 cases of rape, 700 cases of unnatural death, and 471 cases of murder are among the 4,532 cases pending for trial on account of the non-receipt of reports from FSLs, the court noted.

The court also viewed seriously the fact that FSLs are taking 12 to 18 months to complete DNA test, and test narcotics and questioned documents while noticing the absence of a guideline on timeline for completion and monitoring of tests once samples reach the FSLs. Besides, the court noted that only two of the 13 testing sections are available in the RFSLs.

Data on vacancies

From the data, the court noted that FSLs lack sufficient human resources owing to vacancies as all three posts (100%) of joint director are vacant; five out of the 10 posts (50%) of deputy director; 18 of the 46 posts (40%) of assistant director; 35 out of the 88 posts (40%) of senior scientific officer; and 138 of the 186 posts (75%) of scientific officer are vacant.

Facts of pending samples and vacancies in FSLs disclose “sorry state of affairs”, and failure of the government to provide necessary infrastructure would have direct bearing on the criminal justice system, the court observed while directing the government to take a call on setting up more RFSLs or mobile FSL units for conducting elementary tests such on blood samples and stains, etc.

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