Changing Scenario of Crime Investigation: DNA Testing By Neharica Mishra from Amity Law School, Lucknow
From the frontier of genetic engineering to the confines of Criminal Justice, DNA testing has become an indispensable tool in medical research, patient health care, law enforcement and other areas of science. The use of DNA tests to solve crimes has witnessed a rise in criminal investigation India. DNA is the basic building block of a human genetic makeup as it is present in each cell of human body. Deoxyribonucleic acid, commonly known as DNA, is a strand of molecule found within the cell nucleus of all living organisms. It is called a genetic fingerprint, because each is different to the other and everyone (apart from identical twins) has different DNA patterns.
DNA evidence in Indian Courts has been widely accepted, it is a part of admissible expert evidence under Section 45 of the Evidence Act, 1872. Section 53 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 permits a police officer to get the assistance of a medical practitioner for the purpose of investigation. But both the Cr. P. C and the Indian Evidence Act fails to implement the collection and testing of DNA effectively, as they do not set the procedure for how the DNA samples should be collected, secured and destroyed.
Over the last decades, DNA testing gained acceptance in our scientific and legal communities. Today, DNA is used to identify, convict, confirm or acquit suspect in violent crimes, such as homicide and sexual offences, it is believed that suspects are more likely to be identified through DNA evidence than through fingerprints. At any crime scene, there are a lot of material evidences found that is indistinguishable to the naked eyes which can be helpful in solving criminal cases like sexual assault or murder.
As investigators search for criminal clues, they notice things that cannot be erased like the perspiration on a rapist’s mask etc. without the advancements in DNA technology these cases might have remained un-answered. DNA tests have alone been useful in civil cases to determine the biological relationship between two or sometimes three individual. Mostly, DNA test is used to determine the paternity of a person, where a person denies being the biological parent of a child.
There are some disadvantages of DNA testing, such as:
- challenge of accuracy,
- the costs of DNA testing ,and
- the misuse of DNA.
Lack of proficiency to collect and analyze DNA samples from the crime scenes and the use of outdated technology has failed the investigation and led to situations where the Courts have rejected DNA evidence as being unreliable. For instance, in the case of the dentist couple Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, who were convicted of the murder of their teenage daughter Aarushi and their domestic help Hemraj. In this case, it was alleged that DNA tests were not properly conducted as the most crucial evidences were either destroyed or contaminated due to poor police work.
Law enforcing officials and prosecuting attorneys identify the benefits of DNA evidence for solving criminal cases. They argue that DNA evidence is more useful than fingerprinting as DNA fingerprinting can be misused for accusing the wrong person.
DNA evidence is also ‘vigorous’ i.e. it does not decay or disappear over time. The DNA is a physical evidence such as a hair which can be examined years after a crime has been committed. Thus, Forensic entomology is an important aspect for law enforcement. With the abundance of information that can be obtained from the crime scenes, the investigators can more accurately determine the time of death, location and other important factors.
- The Government must make necessary amendments in the Cr.P.C for the suspect to provide their DNA samples to the investigating agencies.
- The Government must implement speedy measures to create data bases of DNA
- It is also extremely necessary to maintain a balance between the constitutional rights of an individual and the interests of the public as a whole and to bring transparency to the practice of DNA collection and testing.
- We need standards, protocols, guidelines and amendments to IPC and Cr. P.C for effective implementation of DNA testing.
As DNA testing progresses, it will become a key aspect in all investigations due to its rising popularity and usefulness.