Indian Criminal Justice System



In India, there has been a recent push by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India to mandatorily use forensic techniques for all crimes where punishment is more than 6 years.1 In order to increase the rate of conviction, forensic techniques must be integrated into the criminal justice system. Delhi Police in its Standard Order No. Crime/31/2022 has laid down guidelines for compulsory forensic investigation.2 The investigating officer (IO) or Station House Officer (SHO) has to summon mobile forensic van to the crime scene to collect and preserve the relevant evidence for further testing and analysis. This is a positive step in the right direction because of two important reasons. First, the IO or SHO who are the first responders to a crime scene lack the required scientific equipment to collect and preserve the evidence available on the crime scene. Second, by summoning the mobile forensic van directly to the crime scene will help not only the proper collection and preservation of crucial evidence form the crime scene but will also save those evidence, which is prone to easy contamination, like serological samples. The move by the Ministry is laudable and must be replicated by police stations across States and throughout the country. In light of the notification by the Government, the writers argue on the potential of forensic techniques in strengthening the criminal justice system. It delineates the meaning of forensic and suggests measures of integrating forensic with the criminal justice system. The article explains the challenges for such integration.

Delineating the meaning of forensic

The word “forensic” is derived from the Latin word “forensis” which means “suitable or pertaining to court of law”. Thus, forensic techniques mean using scientific means to examine evidence collected from crime scenes, which could be used in a court of law. Earlier it was known as criminalistics which meant “application of science to criminal and civil laws”. The investigators around the world use forensic techniques in crime investigations and establish the guilt of the accused. Physical evidence collected at a crime scene has a significant impact on the arrest and prosecution of offenders. This evidence is sent to Forensic Laboratories (Centre and State) for examination. The most commonly applied forensic techniques include DNA analysis, fingerprints, ballistics, toxicology, handwriting and analysis of natural and synthetic materials. These techniques help the examiner to give conclusions as to the origin and nature of such evidence. The investigators and prosecutors rely on the reports given by the forensic experts in ascertaining the demography of offender and victims, the relation between offender and victim, the nature of crime, the manner in which crime was executed, the tools involved and identification of the offender.

Strengthening the criminal justice system through forensic techniques

With recent advancements in the field of forensic sciences, there has been a tremendous utility of such techniques in identification and classification of substances found on a crime scene. These substances are accurately isolated and identified from other commonly available substances which are irrelevant for crime investigation. For instance, whether a stain present on the crime scene is blood or not or whether the white powder is cocaine or salt. Forensic examination enables one to ascertain whether the bite marks present on the body of victim is that of the offender or any other human or animal source, whether a bullet which was shot from a firearm was .38mm caliber which belonged to the offender or not, or whether the hair fiber or serum obtained from the victim's body belonged to the offender or not. Such classification enables an examiner to conclude that the evidence in question may have originated from a particular source or person. Further, forensic examination also helps one to ascertain the common origin of a piece of evidence. This is done by comparing an item of evidence with a reference standard of known source, thereby establishing that the evidence is identical in all respect as to the common source or origin. This is frequently used in DNA matching or fingerprint matching, where the DNA or fingerprint sample obtained from a crime scene is matched with available data to associate and connect persons with the crime or the instruments of the crime (guns, knives or other). Another important utility of forensic examination is the reconstruction and corroboration of crime scenes. Forensic examinations assist investigators in recreating the movement and interaction of suspects and victims and may help in corroborating or refuting statements given by witnesses, suspects, or victims. What transpired during the unfolding of the crime? How was the act executed? Who was/were involved in the act? When and where did the act take place (physical surroundings)? These are all the relevant questions that could be answered through reconstruction and corroboration of incidents at a crime scene. The other most important aspect of forensic examination is the negative identification of substances obtained from a crime scene. Through such examination, it can be proved that the substance found on the crime scene was not the same as the investigator hypothesised it to be i.e. the white powder was not cocaine but salt, the reddish stain was fresh paint and not blood. Such exclusions are necessary to dissociate person or objects from the crime at hand. Thus, forensic examination also helps in establishing innocence of the suspect and prevent wrongful convictions.

Challenges in integrating forensic in criminal justice system

Forensic examination requires certified and well-equipped labs. There are at present 7 Central Forensic Science Laboratories (CFSL) and 28 State Forensic Science Laboratories (SFSL).3 The Central laboratories are well equipped with sophisticated equipments but that is not the case with State laboratories. The State labs, just like the Central labs, are already overburdened with backlogs. Statistics show that 7135 cases were sent to Delhi State Forensic Laboratory between the year 2006 to 2018 and all of them are pending.4 In Delhi 9000 DNA analysis cases were pending in the year 2017, whereas in Mumbai 1700 DNA cases were pending in 2017.5 The same is the case with almost all CFSL and SFSL, which lack trained personnel, staff, and also have poor infrastructure which do not cater to the growing influx of cases each year. There are also a number of mini labs and private labs which cater to a small percentage of examination of evidence. State Government agencies have started outsourcing forensic examinations to private mini labs. This raises further concerns with regards to the cost of examination in private labs. The question is who shall bear the rising cost of forensic examination? Is it the victims or the State? According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) estimates, the number of reported crimes incidences in India in 2021 was 36.28 lakhs of which a major chunk of cases related to murder, crimes against women and children, kidnapping and abduction, robbery.6 All these cases, as per the new mandate of Home Ministry would require mandatory forensic testing and examination. The question then arises is whether 35 labs, with shoddy infrastructure, will be able to bear the burden of new influx of cases? Should the State Governments outsource the testing and examination to private labs? Rather than looking to outsource forensic examination and incur huge costs, the States must invest in building infrastructure and improving the capacity of trained personnel and staff within the forensic science laboratories (FSLs).

Another area of concern is the working of the investigating officer (IO), they are the first responders of the crime and are the first to arrive at the crime scene. It is incumbent upon them to handle the crime scene with utmost sophistication and scientific expertise. These IOs are ill-equipped both in terms of scientific equipments and lack requisite training in collecting and preserving evidence from the crime scene. As the first responders of crime, these IOs must be informed as to what evidence must necessarily be picked up from a crime scene. For now, there are no guidelines available to the IOs which can guide them as to what are the necessary evidence which must be collected from a crime scene in order to secure successful convictions. In light of lack of recommendatory guidelines for crime scene management, it is mainly done on an ad hoc basis where everything depends on the forensic temper of individual IOs. As has been seen majorly, there are quick arrests but those do not turn out in successful convictions by the court. Thus, it is important for an IO to understand how important crime scene management is and it is incumbent upon the policymakers and academia to ensure that proper crime scene management guidelines are put in place at the earliest.

The last area of concern is the veracity of forensic techniques. A study in US by the National Research Council, “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward” (2009) has challenged the scientific foundations of lot of these forensic techniques. The report found that there are fundamental challenges in terms of accuracy of these techniques, and such techniques must be judiciously employed. In India, we also use the same forensic techniques which are prone to inaccuracies. Thus, in order for the investigators and prosecutors to rely upon these forensic techniques for arrest and subsequent convictions, it is imperative that the reliability of these disciplines be established upon firm scientific and evidentiary standards and emulate the best practices in the field.


The move by the Ministry of Home Affairs to extensively integrate forensic techniques in crime investigation and prosecution for all criminal acts which have a punishment for more than 6 years. This is a must and necessary step in securing timely arrest leading to successful conviction of offenders. However, in light of mandatory collection of forensic samples from the crime scene and their examination in forensic labs, the Government must address the issues of inadequate infrastructure at the forensic labs. Both the State and Central Government must invest in creating new and better equipped facilities including training of staff members and lab personnel at all levels including the district, the State and Central level. Further adequate scientific training of investigating officers or the first responders of crime must be done to efficiently manage a crime scene without contaminating the physical evidence present there. Moreover, the veracity and reliability of forensic technique must be improved for the forensic experts to conclusively prove the various aspects of commission of crime. The judicial system must rely on forensic evidence after they are tested on the anvil of scientific and evidentiary standards and secure successful conviction of offenders.

* Teaching and Research Assistant, School of Law, Forensic Justice and Policy Studies, National Forensic Sciences University, Gandhinagar. Author can be reached at

** Registrar, Hidayatullah National Law University, New Raipur, Chhattisgarh. Author can be reached at

1. Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Press Information Bureau, Forensic Science Capabilities: Strengthening for Time-Bound and Scientific Investigation (26-6-2022) <> accessed on 26-10-2022.

2. The Hindu, “Delhi Police First Force to Make Collection of Forensic Evidence Mandatory”, dt. 31-8-2022 < accessed on 26-10-2022.> accessed on 26-10-2022.

3. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 3136 to be Answered on 22nd March, 2022 <> accessed on 26-10-2022.

4. Hindustan Times, Karn Pratap Singh, “Long Wait at Delhi's Forensic Labs Leading to Rising Backlogs of Police Cases” (17-7-2018) <> accessed on 26-10-2022.

5. Punekar News, “India's State Forensic Labs Expanding Infrastructure on Back of Rising Demand for DNA Testing” (16-5-2019) <> accessed on 26-10-2022.

6. Ministry of Home Affairs, National Crime Records Bureau, Crime in India 2021 Statistics, < > accessed on 26-10-2022.

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