The critical forensic evidence issues affecting India’s trial processes

The critical forensic evidence issues affecting India’s trial processes

Forensic science plays a key role in criminal trials as it aids in identifying the guilty. The combination of forensic evidence being used with legal professionals being able to examine it as well and the capabilities of identifying the true criminal are all crucial issues in need of attention. Indeed, false forensic evidence is an alarming issue and can lead to many miscarriages of justice. India suffers from these issues, which dominate the criminal justice system. Therefore, issues of such weight deserve attention and must be corrected.

Investigations of crime take place before any criminal case is scheduled and the quality of the evidence found at the scene always depends on the samples, which are collected, which is why forensic professions must use extra care when undertaking these tasks. Chains of custody determine the strength of the evidence, which begin when the first report is filed by the police who had initially examined the scene. Unfortunately, mistakes do occur especially from the police in India leading to the evidence being affected way before coming to trial. The way in which the evidence is collected and the way it is handled is a pivotal factor which might affect the evidence. India suffers from some professions not having sufficient education and knowledge, which might negatively impact the evidence collected and instead of aiding the process of investigation, disturbances occur, and evidence is tampered with.

A proper chain of custody analysis can only occur if there is effective communication from the initial person visiting the crime scene to the other professionals, with adequate photographs taken along the way and other evidence documented. Proper documentation significantly affects the evidence’s credibility at trial. However, the prevalent issue at stake is that investigators, as well as the judiciary, do not respect the chain of custody as much as it is necessary. Another problem affecting forensic evidence is the way investigating authorities handle the crime scenes, which might be due to the lack of knowledge. In India specifically, there are no criminalistics meaning that police enter the crime scene and affect valuable evidence. An even greater concern is the possibility of tampering with evidence in order to protect the criminal, occurring due to bribery or political influences.

Most of all, the independence of crime labs and their regulation are most concerning in India, as the laboratories are under the control of the law enforcement professionals. Indeed, forensic professionals are typically forced by law enforcement authorities, which result in inaccurate forensic analyses and results. There is also much room for bias to dominate as many employees believe that they work under the police department for convicting the accused. Prosecutors also influence the experts and might even adjust their opinions in favour of their case by directing the professionals to examine the evidence the manner in which they won’t, and many scientists had observed that the bias at hand had been cognitive bias. This type of bias is clearly evident when many subjective judgements are needed for fingerprints, footprints and hair samples for example.

India suffers from many factors other than the ones discussed, which impact on the strength of the case. Initially, the lack of scientific certainty is a crucial consideration that needs attention as one needs to remember that there is no absolute scientific proof and certainty. This is most likely because of the tension and opposing rationales of law and science as the law focuses on probabilities, while science needs certainty. There cannot be absolute faith in the processes conducted at the laboratories because scientists themselves use damaged, contaminated and particularly old samples to direct them to their conclusions. Additionally, forensic identification tests can also be subjective as the examiner needs to judge whether in their opinion there is a match and as there is a possibility of an intervention to occur, there might be the possibility of errors occurring in the match analysis. Furthermore, one must also consider that the lack of research and the limitations on studies and papers may affect the value of the evidence found. In fact, most investigations and analyses are drawn from a long-standing tradition with the courts and not because they are indeed accurate. This is best seen through the fingerprint techniques, which do not have any valid scientific basis but are still accepted within courts due to the previous precedents.

Furthermore, in India it is quite evident that many prosecutors are quick to believe that criminals are guilty even when sometimes they are in fact innocent. Many of the issues can be indeed be remedied through an adequate intervention by the prosecutors. For instance, the screening of forensic evidence and spotting mistakes by the prosecutors might remedy the issues of inaccurate evidence. Unfortunately, in India such practices never occur, and mistakes are never found. A major difficulty in need of major reform is the fact that lawyers and judges are overburdened when examining scientific evidence, this is an issue as the courtroom is becoming a site where judges and lawyers adopt the role of scientists.

Possible solutions to the above-mentioned problems are perhaps to adopt judicial training mechanisms on forensic evidence and continuing educating for judges and lawyers on this topic. This issue might be fixed to an even greater extent if expert jury trials were adopted where juries who are experts on scientific evidence sit on cases and students receiving forensic science courses, which will be part of their law courses. Ultimately, with better monitoring from the judiciary and in turn more accountability many of the services will be improved.

About the Author

Lina Petrovska

Lina Petrovska

Student of LLB Honours at the School of Law & Social Justice, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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