Several kinds of shortages at the Kalina Forensic Science Laboratory have led to a pile-up of 25,000 cases in the city
It may sound unbelievable, but more than 75,000 cases are pending in the six prime Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL) of Maharashtra, thanks to shortage of chemicals needed to complete tests, shortage of staff required to carry them out, and shortage of equipment.
In Mumbai, more than 25,000 cases have piled up at the FSL in Kalina, an important part of state Home Department, with no-one willing to give any indication about the possibility of catching up and clearing the backlog within a manageable time-frame.
The Kalina FSL’s staff shortage has been well-documented for over the past couple of years. What is perhaps not openly known is the shortage of basic chemicals like alcohol, which is a must for performing the DNA tests that are so vital for the police in the city and the rest of the state.
High profile cases like the Sandhya Kamat murder, the Laila Khan murder cases, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur’s DNA test, the Karan Kakkad murder, and others, are dealt with by procuring chemicals from outside and submitting reports that still take two months. As these are very high profile cases, the laboratory is purchasing chemicals from outside and submitting reports within two months.
Needless to state, the Mumbai Police too are facing problems due to the slow pace of work at Kalina FSL. In many cases, they have to wait for six months or more to get DNA reports. There are 93 police stations in Mumbai and in each police station, each Police Sub Inspector (PSI) has an average of 15 Accidental Death Report (ADR) cases on their hands, which await reports from the Kalina FSL.
The FSLs are located in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad and Amravati, and handle 75,000 cases through their various departments. These include:
Biology - 14,000
Toxicology - 23,000
DNA - 1,500
Ballistics - 500
Cyber - 800
Voice Identification - 850
Not just chemicals:
Inquiries with sources revealed that this sorry state of affairs is also due to the lack of well-qualified staff. One source said most of the appointments are made through references by politicians and businessmen!
Much of the machinery and equipment, bought for lakhs of rupees, is inoperative. For instance, the colour Xerox machine, which is a must in the photography department, has not been functioning for a long time. Instead, the staff makes do with printouts!
According to M.V. Malve, Director of the Kalina Forensic Science Laboratory, pending cases are being handled ‘on priority basis.’ He also said the staff shortage was only in the category of Class II officers who make the reports! As for the reported shortage of chemicals, he denied that this was the case, or that material was being purchased from outside for the more important cases.
As for the machinery lying unused, that was “not purchased during my tenure.” Puzzlingly, Malve also declared that attempts were being made to send out case reports as soon as possible, but insufficient staff made this difficult.
Interestingly, he said each DNA test cost around Rs.10,000 and many were being demanded. Hence, if a case looked ‘important,’ it was attended to. In the Colaba rape and murder cases involving children, the Mumbai Police had detained more than 1,100 people among whom 110 were selected for DNA testing as possible suspects. “You can imagine how much this will cost,” said Malve. He also denied that the staff members were unqualified or that they had been selected after to recommendations from politicians.
According to a senior police inspector in the city, who spoke on condition of anonymity, in case of fatalities, all were treated as Accidental Death Reports and sent to civic-run hospitals for post-mortems. If the post-mortem turned up something fishy, viscera, etc were sent to the FSL for further check. Based upon this, an ADR could be converted into a homicide investigation.
But since the FSL took anything between six months to a year to send the viscera report, often the murderer (if there was one) had plenty of time to disappear and relatives also get uncooperative.
It is learned that on January 28, a team of around seven people from the Kalina FSL had visited the Gujarat Science Laboratory to see how it functions.
Apparently, there are very few cases pending there. The team also visited the Chennai FSL.
With regard to the staff shortages in forensic laboratories across Maharashtra, there are vacancies in every category:
15 technical posts in Class I
35 technical posts in Class II
20 technical posts in Class III
20 posts in Category IV.
Across Maharashtra, the state government appointed 19 Class II officers in January this year. Kalina got only two or three!