The Maharashtra Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) has sent a proposal to the state government, seeking permission to apply for accreditation. Once it gets permission, the FSL can approach the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), an autonomous body under the Department of Science & Technology, for accreditation.
The move comes after defence lawyers in the state have argued in several cases – the latest being the Salman Khan hit-and-run case – about how forensic reports from the FSL should not be admitted as evidence as the laboratory is not accredited.
The FSL conducts DNA tests, blood alcohol tests and autopsies in cases referred by the Maharashtra Police. The FSL reports then go on to form important evidence during trial. In several cases, the accused have been convicted on the basis of FSL reports. For instance, a person arrested for the rape and murder of a girl in Nehru Nagar in 2010 was convicted last year mainly on the basis of the FSL report that proved DNA samples found on the girl’s body matched that of convict Javed Shaikh.
A senior official in the FSL said its proposal to the state government says that the lab meets all requirements put in place by NABL for accreditation. “We are hoping that within a month, the government will agree to the proposal following which we will approach NABL,” the official said.
Elaborating on the conditions for accreditation, the official said NABL checks the technical competence of staff, validity and appropriateness of test methods, maintenance of test equipment and testing environment, among other things. NABL staff conduct checks annually and, if satisfied, provide accreditation.
“It helps improve the credibility of the laboratory. While we work as professionally as any other FSL in the country, the fact that we do not have accreditation has been held against us. Especially by defence lawyers who use the ploy in every case,” the official said.
Among state FSLs across the country, Delhi and Gujarat FSLs are NABL-accredited.
A former FSL official said they had tried for accreditation nearly seven years ago as well. “We met nearly 80 per cent of the requirements of NABL and were given a list of things not in compliance. We were to follow up on them and approach them after fixing the problems. Somehow things fizzled out and we did not approach them,” he said.