Forensic reports on all new samples should be ready within one month: HC
Government’s plea for longer timeline citing the need to improve facilities at FSLs rejected
Rejecting the longer timeline proposed by the State government to fill up the huge number of vacant posts, upgrade infrastructure, and complete tests at Forensic Science Laboratories (FSLs), the High Court of Karnataka has not only set a shorter timeline but also ordered that forensic reports should be submitted within one month of the date of receipt of all new samples.
The court said an effort should be made to submit reports within three months in all the 35,738 articles/samples awaiting tests connected to 6,994 pending criminal cases. “There is a gross violation of the fundamental right of protection of life and personal liberty on account of the State machinery not performing its duties”, the court said.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj issued the series of interim directions on a PIL petition, initiated suo motu by the court in February this year on noticing that the criminal justice system had been “crippled” in the State because of the huge pendency of samples awaiting forensic tests because of a lack of human resources and testing facilities.
The measures proposed by the government, the Bench said, were “literally baby steps and too little compared the required action”. It called for greater alacrity on the part of the State to make recruitments.
The Bench also directed the government to fill up several of the vacant posts on contract basis within a period of four months till regular recruitments are made or till the persons working in the lower cadres become eligible for promotion.
The Bench said the government had “woken up” to the issues plaguing FSLs only after the court took note of the sorry state of affairs. Of the total 468 sanctioned posts in the FSLs, 311 have been lying vacant for years. “It is rather shocking that a period of one year is taken for chemical analysis, and one and a half years for computer forensics, mobile forensics, audio, video forensics, and DNA analysis when some laws set a deadline of less than a year for the completion of trial itself in cases like sexual offence against children,” the Bench said.
The Bench also said the State FSL should maintain a dashboard on its website for public viewing, displaying details such as date, nature and number of samples received for analysis, status of processing, date of submission of report, time taken to process, reasoning for delay and more.
The Bench said a research and development unit should be set in the SFSL and an R&D unit should examine starting various new wings of forensic study, the need of new equipment, the formulation of an SOP, transportation, storage and processing of samples, and develop a format for submission of reports.
The Bench also said trial courts should keep track of submission of forensic reports and could permit FSL officers to appear in videoconference mode during trials.