NHRC issues SOP for forensic evidence collection in sexual assault cases

Guidelines include taking informed consent of victim, preserving samples correctly.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) for proper collection and handling of forensic evidence in sexual assault cases, after it observed that many cases donโ€™t end in convictions due to inadequate scientific evidence.

The NHRC said in a statement on Wednesday that it had issued the SOP to all the States and Union Territories (UTs) โ€œin order to ensure effective prosecution leading to conviction in cases of sexual assault on womenโ€. The document was prepared after consulting medical experts and sent to the States and UTs for implementation, it said.

The SOP, which was sent to the States and UTs on December 9 by NHRC secretary general Bimbadhar Pradhan, covers victim care, collection of samples and handing over samples to the forensic science laboratories by doctors.

โ€œThe Commission has come out with this SOP after it observed that in many cases of alleged rape and sexual assault, there is substantial delay in medical examination, collection and processing of scientific/forensic evidences of the victim of sexual assault. The exhibits are forwarded to the FSL after much delay and by that time, the samples deteriorate/autolyse and become unsuitable for examination. This delay adversely affects the investigation for effective prosecution leading to conviction,โ€ the statement said.

The SOP states that the identity of the survivor must be kept confidential and the priority should be to treat life-threatening injuries before collection of evidence. The examination should be conducted in privacy and security and the survivorโ€™s informed, written and verbal consent, including at different points of the process, should be taken.

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