Forensic DNA is the world’s greatest crime fighting technology. Nearly every country in the world has forensic labs capable of comparing the DNA left at crime scenes to the DNA of suspects, to determine who was at the crime scene, which leads to the culprit. India is not doing enough DNA collection from violent and sexual crime scenes. As a result, those guilty of rape and murder do not get convicted, and innocent suspects do not get exonerated.
In India, 34,651 cases of rape were registered under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code during the year 2015. In how many of these cases have the guilty been punished? In addition to the low DNA collection rate at violent and sexual crimes in India, significant backlogs exist in the forensic labs. In May 2016, the Delhi government had found that there were 5,000 cases pertaining to testing of DNA and biological samples pending at the local forensic lab. Without the ability to test the DNA from violent and sexual crimes quickly, police are unable to confirm a suspect’s involvement in a crime and courts are unable to use the DNA to convict the guilty. If DNA were quickly tested, conviction rates would significantly increase.
India should “collect and test” DNA left at all violent and sexual crime scenes. First, whenever a violent or sexual crime occurs in India, the question should be asked of the police as to whether DNA was collected and submitted for testing. If DNA was not collected, it should be asked, “why not?” Second, once the DNA from a violent sex crime scene is received by a forensic lab, it should be tested quickly and compared to the DNA of known suspects. Courts and prosecutors must demand that the DNA be tested quickly so it can be used in court to expedite the process and improve the low conviction rates. Victims and their families should raise serious concerns when the DNA from their case takes inordinately long time to get tested.
Groups in India that focus on protecting women and children and other vulnerable groups against violent and sexual crime should demand that DNA collection from crime scenes be encouraged and the DNA tested quickly. Only then will India be able to take full advantage of forensic DNA to confirm the involvement of known suspects and increase conviction rate. Statistics and high profile crimes in India indicate that DNA “collect and test” is necessary to convict the guilty from among the suspects and provide justice to victims.
The author is the president of Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs. Views expressed in this article are personal.