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Custody Cannot Be Extended Merely Because FSL Has Not Furnished Report; Delay In FSL Examination Affecting Right To Speedy Trial : Karnataka High Court

Mustafa Plumber
4 Feb 2021 2:22 PM GMT
Custody Cannot Be Extended Merely Because FSL Has Not Furnished Report; Delay In FSL Examination Affecting Right To Speedy Trial : Karnataka High Court
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Taking note of the lack of adequate Forensic Science Laboratories in the state, the Karnataka High Court recently issued several directions to the state government for ensuring that FSL reports are provided on time to aid speedy disposal of cases."For a state like Karnataka, which is stated to be the front runner in Information Technology with Bangalore being the Silicon Valley of the east,...

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Taking note of the lack of adequate Forensic Science Laboratories in the state, the Karnataka High Court recently issued several directions to the state government for ensuring that FSL reports are provided on time to aid speedy disposal of cases.

"For a state like Karnataka, which is stated to be the front runner in Information Technology with Bangalore being the Silicon Valley of the east, it is rather anamolous and unacceptable that there is only one FSL which has 13 sections functioning," the Court observed.

A single judge bench of Justice Suraj Govindaraj noted that "There are no specific guidelines laid down as regards the timelines to be followed by each of the stakeholders during the above process nor is there any monitoring system established to monitor the passage of the sample from the time it was collected to the date of submission of the report in Court."

The court took into account the fact that there are 6994 cases which are pending trial, on account of the reports from the FSL not having been received. There are more than 35738 samples pending examination.

The court was also informed that the organisational set up of FSL in the State is that there is an apex State Forensic Science Laboratory (SFSL) located in Bengaluru where 13 different Sections are functioning. The State has also established five Regional Forensic Science Laboratory (RFSL) in five Police Range headquarters viz Mysuru, Mangaluru, Davanagere, Belagavi and Kalaburgi, however, out of 13 Sections a maximum of only two sections are functioning in as such, all the samples as regards the remaining 11 other Sections are required to be sent to the SFSL for examination.

To which the bench said "The shocking and unacceptable aspect is the time taken for submission of reports – a Narcotic matter takes 1 year, Computer/mobile/audio-video forensics takes about 1 and half year, a DNA test takes 1 and half years, these being average time."

It added "If the accused is in custody, the delay would result in a large number of undertrials being kept in jail during the pendency of the above report. On account of the delay in receipt of the aforesaid scientific reports, there is a high social cost. If the report is received belatedly and the same does not support the case of the prosecution, many a time it could result in innocent persons being incarcerated."

Further it said "The other side of the coin is that the victim or victim's family also suffers on account of such delay, not knowing what will happen and when. Each accused has a right of speedy trial. The victim or the victim's family also has a right to a speedy trial. An Accused has a right to an expeditious trial, more so when he/she is in judicial custody. The said custody cannot be extended merely on the ground that the FSL is unable to furnish the reports in time and/or the number of FSL are lesser than that required. Such a delay infringes on the right to life of an accused under Article 21 of the constitution of India. Delay by the FSL in providing a report whatever the reason may be is resulting in a situation which cannot be countenanced under law."

The court also opined that "The effect of the delay in furnishing the reports not only delays the trial in a matter, it is also possible that due to the said delay the sample may degrade or get contaminated, thus negating the very purpose of forensic examination. The details of samples being degraded or contaminated have not been provided."

Noting that Forensic Evidence like DNA reports, chemical analysis reports, bioanalysis reports play a critical role in the investigation of serious crimes, like Murder, sexual assault cases, forgery etc., the bench said "The delay in submitting forensic reports by FSL necessarily hampers the proceedings in a case. One of the biggest impediments to a speedy trial is the delay in the filing of FSL reports. Cases are adjourned for years due to non-receipt of these reports. Some cases are not even committed to the sessions court or special Court as the case may be due to non-receipt of the reports."

Accordingly it issued the following directions:

  • State is directed to make all sections in the RFSL's operational within a period of twelve months from date of receipt of the copy of this order.
  • Not only at the State level or the regional level that Forensic Science Laboratory are required, there would be a requirement of District level Forensic Science Laboratory, the State is directed to consider and establish Districts Level Forensic Science Laboratory in all Districts of the State as per the requirement of thereof within a period of 24 months from date of receipt of the certified copy of this order.
  • State to act expeditiously and fill the existing vacancies at SFSL and RFSL as expeditiously as possible at any rate within a period of six months from date of receipt of certified copy of this order. There is no Joint Director appointed all 3 posts (100%) are vacant, 7 out of 10 posts (70%) of Deputy Directors are vacant, 18 of 46 posts (40%) of Assistant Directors is vacant, 35 out 88 posts (40%) of senior scientific officers are vacant, 138 of 186 posts (75%) of scientific officers is vacant.
  •  A proper scientific study be made as regards the number of samples to be examined, nature of examination, the qualification of person who is required for such examination etc.,
  •  To draw up an action plan as regards the pending samples, the timelines within which reports regarding these samples would be filed before the concerned court. Guidelines are required to be issued as regards the time period in which a particular kind of sample would be examined and report submitted to the concerned court, as regards future samples received.
  • Establish a monitoring system to monitor the passage of the sample from the time it was collected to the date of submission of the report in Court.
  • A study as regards the latest equipment available, modernisation of the Laboratories, a process of the equipment to be updated from time to time is also to be put in place.
  • Even if the said officer of the FSL is required to appear and depose in a particular manner, it will also be advisable to permit the said evidence to be led through video conference facilitation. It is immediately required to connect the FSL's with the Courts in a similar manner as the jails are connected to the Court. This would save a large number of man-days lost on account of such unnecessary travel by the FSL officers. The trial Courts to permit the examination and or cross-examination of the FSL officers through video conferencing.
  • The trial Court has to maintain a strict vigil on adjournments being granted for the production of FSL reports, the trial Court ought to insist on the reports being submitted at the earliest.

Case Details:

Case Title: NAVEEN KUMAR And STATE OF KARNATAKA

Case No: CRIMINAL PETITION NO.7019 OF 2020

Date of Order: 22ND DAY OF DECEMBER, 2020

Coram: JUSTICE SURAJ GOVINDARAJ

Appearance: Advocate PRATHEEP K.C, for petitioner

Advocate NAMITHA MAHESH B.G for respondents

Click Here To Download Order

[Read Order]




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