IN WHAT will come as a shot in the arm for the Maharashtra Police trying to overturn its poor conviction record, two additional centres of the Maharashtra Forensic Sciences Laboratory (FSL) are set to become operational in the next two months. These new centres are to be located in Kolhapur and Nanded.
Currently, police stations in the hinterland have to rely on forensic centres located at considerable distances, resulting in several problems and consequent delays. The police rely on the FSL for forensic reports such as a DNA match when they prosecute an accused in a court of law.
According to an official, the state FSL with its headquarters in Mumbai currently has five centres located in Aurangabad, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur and Amravati. “As a result, police stations located away from them…face several problems,” said an official who did not wish to be named.
Explaining the nature of the problems, he said if there was a crime scene in Nanded, forensic experts had to be called from the Aurangabad lab, the nearest centre. Aurangabad is a five-hour drive from Nanded, not accounting for the time required to summon and gather such a team.
“A crime scene has to be preserved for forensic experts to be able to gather samples. If it is contaminated or disturbed, the forensic examination is worthless. Hence, for those 8 -10 hours, the police have to ensure that the scene of crime is not disturbed. If the crime takes place in a busy place, it becomes all the more difficult for the police to preserve it,” the official explained.
Another major problem is the preservation of biological samples.
“The viscera and blood samples could further decompose due to the time lapse and there is no way to preserve them. All these factors would have an impact on the extent to which the FSL could help police with evidence,” said another official.
However, the two new centres at Nanded and Kolhapur are expected to put an end to many of these problems. While the government resolution (GR) approving the two centres came on December 15 last year, there were delays in acquiring land for the purpose. The Kolhapur centre is expected to cater to police stations in Sangli, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg too, while the Nanded centre will accept samples from police stations in Parbhani, Hingoli and Latur.
“The samples from Nanded that would earlier come to the Aurangabad FSL would go to the Nanded lab now. Also, this would tremendously reduce the workload and backlog at other centres, ensuring reports are sent quicker,” the official explained.
Director General (Legal and Technical) Satish Mathur confirmed that the new FSL centres would be operational soon. While the Nanded centre, which will operate out of the Nanded civil hospital, is expected to be inaugurated by the end of September, the Kolhapur centre is likely to be operational by October end.
The two centres, however, would initially not have some high-end testing facilities, including DNA testing, which means some of the problems will still persist.
“The equipment needed for DNA testing is expensive. A single equipment like a genetic analyser costs nearly Rs 3 crore. Hence, even now, DNA testing facility is available only at Mumbai, Nagpur and Pune. However, with time, the new centres too will be equipped to conduct these tests,” said the official.