There are two conflicting eyewitness reports in the Karol Bagh fire — while one claims the fire was due to an inflammable solvent being spilled, the other says he saw sparking near the steam press machine.
The only way to know for sure would be an arson report by the Forensic Science Laboratory. So far, three divisions of the FSL have lifted around six exhibits — including cloth material, hair, burnt and semi-burnt articles — but police are yet to hand them back to the laboratory.
FSL officials said it takes around three weeks to prepare the final report, but police claimed that at times, the final report can take months, delaying the filing of chargesheets.
Following a fire, the police depends on three reports. One is prepared by the Delhi Fire Services (DFS), which incorporates the origin and extent of fire, the colour of flame and smoke, the number of fire tenders and other vehicles used, and how the fire was extinguished. “It takes 72 hours for us to prepare the report and send it to police,” said Chief Fire officer (DFS) Atul Garg.
Police also rely on an opinion of a medico-legal expert to ascertain if the injuries were ante-or post-mortem which may also take around two weeks. The third report comes from the FSL.
After lifting exhibits, the investigating officer collects them in an air-tight plastic container to avoid contamination. Samples are then sent to the explosive unit under the chemistry division. An FSL official said, “In case of a fire due to solvent, it first needs to be extracted from the debris.” The solvents are isolated through a distillation technique which takes up to 48 hours.
Sanjeev Kumar Gupta, the crime scene management in charge at FSL, said the chemistry division uses “a gas chromatographer to find out about the make-up of the chemical residue”. FSL officials then spend a few days interpreting the results before submitting the report to the IO.
Following the Bawana fire that killed 17, police took around 90 days to file a chargesheet. However, after the Narela factory fire that killed five in June this year, it took around five months to get the arson report.