Forensics research needs boost in universities
T. R. Baggi
T. R. Baggi
FORENSIC science is an integral part of sciences. However, it is facing a serious identity crisis in the country, because scientific management or laboratory management principles have never been applied to forensic science laboratories. There is no awareness at all in the field of science and technology about forensic studies. The allocation of funds for its growth, both in universities and forensic science laboratories, is abysmally low, whereas modern forensics has to work in the frontier areas of science, using cutting edge technologies, if it has to deliver meaningful contribution to the criminal justice system.
In most developed countries, almost all universities have full-fledged forensic science programmes, starting from undergraduate level to Ph.D. India has only three universities at Sagar, Patiala and Dharwad that offer such programmes at their respective departments which are being funded by the UGC as ‘low-priority’ departments.
The forensic community in India seems to be totally cut off from the mainstream of science and technology, both academically and professionally. Forensic science is a multidisciplinary subject and it has to draw the knowledge, expertise and inspiration from all pure and applied sciences to effectively apply to crime prevention and crime investigation. Forensic science cannot function effectively if it works in isolation from the scientific culture and work under the umbrella of police and other law enforcement agencies. It is a curious paradox that while India has made giant strides in the field of agricultural, pharmaceutical, nuclear, medical, computer and space sciences, forensic science has remained static and technologically way behind by couple of decades when compared to other developed countries.
Also, there is a misconception that other institutions cannot carry out research work in forensic science. It is a multidisciplinary endeavour needing advanced technologies and hence universities and other research institutions can carry out path-breaking research in forensic science, as is the case in most of the advanced countries. Leave alone the advanced innovative forensic research, forensic laboratories are not even able to adapt to routine analytical methodologies developed abroad decades ago.
Due to serious limitations of staff, infrastructure and abnormally large number of cases, forensic scientists are not able to show their optimal performance. As a result, performance has plummeted to a level much below the internationally accepted parameters. Modern forensic science activity, be it routine work or research, demands resources. If we expect accurate, meaningful and fast solutions from forensic laboratories for complex investigations, there are no cheap options. We have to invest lot of funds for highly qualified, experienced and competent human resources, and infrastructural facilities like buildings, instrumentation and library, etc. Forensic science should be brought under the ambit of mainstream science and technology. Greater accountability and rigorous monitoring should be there through appraisals, assessments and expert reviews by multidisciplinary expert members from different institutions.
While funds can be made available by the government, human resources professionals should be recruited from universities who can storm forensic science laboratories with new ideas and can face the challenges of new crime scenarios.
In the present set-up, research in forensic science is almost negligible. Growth charts of forensic science laboratories, especially concerning workforce, have been totally static. There are no provisions of infusion of young blood through the lateral entry system. The funding position with respect to infrastructural facilities, when compared to international laboratories, is astoundingly low. Added to the blockade of human resources and infrastructural development, commensurate to the needs of forensic work of international standard, forensic laboratories are fraught with highest level of bureaucracy, blocking the innovativeness and risk-taking ventures which are so essential for forensic investigations, research and development.
The Research Fellowships Scheme of the Department of Forensic Science, Government of India, has been suspended almost four years ago. The internship/attachment facilities at CFSLs have been stopped for some time now. These negative measures are a set back to forensic science students. Thanks to media hype, which has created a lot of interest among the youth in recent years, for creating a very high demand for forensic science courses.
To foster the growth of forensic science in the country, the government and scientific institutions in general and universities and forensic science laboratories in particular should synchronously work by adopting an integrated approach towards forensic science education, routine forensic work and research and development. Inter-institutional collaboration will help promote the growth of forensic science. Whole forensic science set-up in universities and government laboratories needs total overhaul at all levels. This can be done by providing liberal funding to all agencies concerned and improving the availability of human resources, boosting the infrastructure to an excellent status, promoting research, integrating forensic science, both in the professional laboratories and universities, with the main stream science and technology, and giving complete scientific autonomy free from bureaucracy and non-interference from the police or administrators.
The author is former Director, Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Hyderabad, and currently is the Academic Coordinator (Forensic Science), Department of Chemistry, University College of Science, Osmania University, Hyderabad