The pendency of cases, which has been a major issue for the short-staffed Directorate of Forensic Science Laboratories (DFSL), Maharashtra, will soon be resolved with the state home department deciding to digitise the DFSL’s internal functioning.
The system will help beat the shortage of manpower at FSL and also improve the productivity of all its units by expediting the process of collection of evidence from the crime scene, its examination and release of test reports to investigating agencies in a time-bound manner.
There is a large backlog of cases with the FSL and the laboratories are struggling to clear it, according to officials.
Currently, all functions of the FSL are carried out manually, which is time-consuming and prevents laboratories from fully focusing on their core work of analysis, research and submission of sample reports of criminal cases on time, officials said.
With digitisation, the Maharashtra Home Department plans to improve the productivity of all units of DFSL, RFSL (Regional Forensic Science Laboratories) and MFSL (Mini Forensic Science Laboratories).
Digitisation will help authorities track the progress of any case being investigated at FSL at just the click of a button as against the current procedure of the report being sent via post, officials said.
According to officials, due to an increasing crime rate, the number of cases or samples received by the FSL from the police and other agencies is increasing every day as compared to the manpower at the laboratory.
Without digitisation and computerisation, it will become very difficult to reduce the response time and clear the pendency of old sample reports, officials said.
At least two years ago, the FSL had sent a proposal to the Maharashtra government to digitise all processes at the laboratories, starting from collection of samples, testing and even sending reports to the investigating authority or the court.
The government accepted the proposal recently and sanctioned a budget of approximately Rs 200 crore for the same.
“We have already created the software, which will record the sample reports and can be used to send them to probe agencies. An Expression of Interest was been floated last week for appointing the implementing agency,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
The official said the objective of the system is to design and implement high standards in data and information security and ensure high-speed connectivity and effective communication between all the RFSLs and the DFSL.
As part of the process, the mobile van units of the laboratory, which visit the crime spot, will also be modernised. “There are 45 mobile forensic van units across the state but they are not connected with the DFSL or RFSLs in a dedicated manner,” said an official, adding that the modernised vans will be equipped to carry out a live telecast from the crime scene. The vans will also have a digital logbook, which will record their site visits and list of evidence, the official added.
It will also help the FSL manage the inventory of chemicals or tools used during evidence-collection, the official said.
“Scanning of past analytical reports to help in quick data access and retrieval will be a part of modernisation as courts can demand case records from previous years, duplicate copies and other information, which must be furnished immediately. In such cases, digitisation will be useful and will also omit risks caused by deterioration of paper over time,” said an official.
“The FSL and its test reports play a crucial role in criminal investigation and help the prosecution bring culprits to justice and give justice to innocents. A lot of cases are dependent on FSL reports and in court, criminal cases usually get stuck if these reports don’t come on time. Serious offences are linked with FSL reports and many times, the prosecution files the chargesheet without getting the reports due to pendency. The accused doesn’t get bail in the absence of the report and when the report comes later, it is revealed that it is in favour of the accused. This all can be avoided with computerisation and modernisation of the FSL. It’s vital to improve the functioning of labs and utilise the capabilities of scientists,” said Y P Singh, a former IPS officer.
Another official said, “In the coming years, forensic science laboratories in Maharashtra are going to play a crucial role in the improvement of the conviction rate with the help of accurate analysis by forensic experts. Modernisation of laboratories will ease the process undertaken by experts, enabling them to handle greater workload in the future and improve the conviction rate of cases in the state.”
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