Forensic science for speedier justice

The essential object of criminal law is to protect society against criminals and law-breakers and to protect law abiding citizens. For this purpose, the law hands out punishments to prospective law-breakers as well as attempts to make the actual offenders suffer the prescribed punishments for their crimes.

Therefore, criminal law, in its wider sense, consists of both the substantive criminal law and the procedural (or adjective) criminal law. Substantive criminal law defines offences and prescribes punishments for the same, while the procedural law administers the substantive law.

To meet natural justice, the erring person is subjected to prosecution in the established procedure in the court of law where evidence of guilt is to be proved beyond doubt. It is at this juncture that forensic science plays an important role.

Forensic science is the application of science in the administration of justice. It plays an important and indispensable part during the investigation of criminal cases and prosecution of offenders through examination of vital clues and physical evidence, which could help decide the guilt of a suspect based on scientifically proven facts.

In recent years, law enforcement agencies have been facing an uphill task in securing the conviction of suspects, in view of the ever innovative modus operandi being adopted by modern day criminals.

The profile of a criminal has undergone phenomenal changes from the earlier stereotypes, requiring a new paradigm to understand and manage the emerging scenario. The criminal mind no longer fits the old definition of an economically-deprived background, but one that seeks to compete, outsmart and short-change the society that he or she lives in.

Emerging trends in cybercrime like hacking, phishing, cyber stalking etc, with social media as the new playground helps the criminal mind do a lot of manipulations. The police force needs to adopt, revamp and reform itself to address how crime is reported, investigated and followed on the lines of gathering scientific evidence, which can ensure successful prosecution of the criminal.

Forensic science may prove the commission of a crime, the perpetrator of a crime, or a connection between crime and offender through:

• Examination of available physical evidence

• Administration of tests

• Analysis and interpretation of test results

• Preparation of evidence report

• Testimony in courts

Traditionally, forensic science was limited to examination of physical evidences like fingerprints, blood sample analysis or forensic biology, toxicology, examination of questioned documents and ballistics. Today, its scope has been widened to include forensic photography, cyber forensics and narcoanalysis.

Forensic photographs play a very important role in medico-legal practice as they not only act as an evidentiary material but also as a guide to the crime committed or accident occurred. Examination of photographs gives many clues or features, which help forensic experts identify the condition.

Cyber forensics involves the analysis of evidence found in computer and digital media like pen drives, hard disks etc. Its major objective is identifying, preserving, recovering, analysing and presenting facts and opinions about the digital information.

Crimes involving a computer can range across the spectrum of criminal activity, from child pornography to theft of personal data to destruction of intellectual property.

Two basic types of data are collected in computer forensics. Persistent data is the data that is stored on a local hard drive (or another medium) and is preserved when the computer is turned off. Volatile data is any data that is stored in memory, or exists in transit, that will be lost when the computer loses power or is turned off.

One of the important limitations in forensic examination is delay in examination of physical evidences and preparation of reports due to huge volume of criminal and other cases referred to the Forensic Science Laboratories in India.

There is a need to establish a forensic science laboratory in every district for speedier examination and reporting. In what is a positive development, of late both Union and state governments are giving adequate importance to establishing more laboratories and also modernising the existing facilities.  

In Karnataka, recent initiatives like the establishment of the Forensic Science and Technological Centre, acquisition of modern equipment and creation of additional posts of experts will help enhance the capability of the Directorate of Forensic Science Laboratories. This will go a long way in bringing the criminals to justice expeditiously and enhancing the safety of law-abiding citizens. 

(The writer is Additional Director General of Police, Crime and Technical Services, Bengaluru)

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