Forensic experts call for one-stop sexual assault test centres

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Forensic experts call for one-stop sexual assault test centres

Thursday, 18 July 2019 | Staff Reporter | NEW DELHI

Forensic experts have called for country-wide implementation of one-stop sexual assault examination, care, and research centres enabled with state-of-the-art DNA collection and testing facilities.

In a symposium on the ‘Role of Forensic DNA Technology in Expediting Justice and Fighting Crime’, held at India International Centre on Wednesday, an expert panel led by the forensic department of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) also participated and discuss the various related aspects. 

Dr Sudhir K Gupta, Head of Department of Forensic Medicine (AIIMS) said, “The lack of proper facilities at hospitals has a direct correlation with the quality of DNA evidence collected. The results for the vaginal swabs and semen samples can be analysed quickly to help catch the culprit but currently 80-90 per cent samples do not yield viable results either because they are not collected and sealed properly, or because they are stored at an unsuitable temperature.

“There is a dire need for educating and training first-line responders on proper collection and handling of DNA samples while at the same time creating dedicated infrastructure to attend to rape survivors,” he said.

  Dr Deepa Verma, Director of Delhi FSL said, “Creation of one-stop sexual assault examination and care centres is a step in the right direction. “In any case pertaining to sexual assault or rape at known or unknown sites, forensic evidence needs to be preserved at all costs and handled with care.

We have noticed a steady rise in demand for DNA testing and are increasing our capacity to assist investigators. We are planning to constitute specialised trained crime scene examination teams to ensure quick retrieval of forensic evidence while ensuring proper collection and preservation,” she said.

 Along with AIIMS, other premier medical institutions like KEM Hospital, Mumbai, have also recently taken steps towards setting up dedicated units for examination, testing, and post-trauma care for rape survivors with facilities for physical check-up, treatment of injuries, forensic tests, DNA profiling, and psychiatric counselling-all under one roof. Once operational, the AIIMS centre is expected to take on the role of a nodal agency for setting up similar units in other parts of the country, he added.

 Dr Harish Pathak, Head of  Forensics, KEM Hospital, Mumbai said, “We get over 200 cases of sexual abuse every year but lacked a dedicated space for counselling, medical examination and stay for survivors. Hence, we have constructed a dedicated one-stop centre with special counselling suite where department of forensic medicine along with experts from gynaecology and psychiatry collectively gather history, counsel, conduct medicolegal examination, and collect evidences to prepare combined reports for investigation agencies,” he said.

Dr Pathak  further said “We always lay special emphasis on collection of relevant biological samples for DNA analysis wherever and whenever scientifically appropriate as to ensure all precautions and measures are taken for maintaining and documenting chain of custody and sanctity is evidence in such cases”.

Forensic DNA has emerged as the most reliable crime fighting technology the world over. Many countries are effectively using forensic labs and protocols to collect, test and compare DNA at crime scenes with that of suspects with promising results. Where machinery world law over is increasingly relying on DNA forensics to solve crime,

the pace in India has been

slow. Lack of scientific methods in investigations and absence of a proper policy framework in the country continue to hamper justice.

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