Forensic Law Forensic Science Law in India

Forensic science law in India is the branch of law that deals with the application of scientific methods and techniques to investigate crimes, examine evidence, and present findings in a court of law. The use of forensic science in the Indian legal system dates back to the late 19th century. The Indian Evidence Act of 1872 was the first law in India that recognized the admissibility of scientific evidence in courts. Forensic labs in India are working with an increasing amount of cases as the use of scientific methods in criminal investigations grows.1 These labs are essential for gathering important scientific data as well as for promptly providing findings to different criminal justice system stakeholders. Courts then evaluate and interpret these findings based on their correctness, transparency, and objectivity to either clear innocent parties or prove beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of suspected offenders. The best forensic lab should have state-of-the-art, reliable information-gathering procedures and use the best scientific methods possible for material analysis. These labs ought to actively interact with criminal justice system decision-makers and urge them to utilize the most trustworthy forensic techniques.

Today, forensic science plays an important role in the Indian legal system. The Indian government has established several forensic science laboratories across the country to provide forensic services to law enforcement agencies and the judiciary. These laboratories analyze physical evidence, such as DNA, fingerprints, and ballistics, to aid in criminal investigations and trials. The use of forensic science in India is governed by various laws and regulations, including the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act, and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.2 These laws regulate the collection, preservation, analysis, and presentation of forensic evidence in courts. Forensic science law in India also includes the legal framework for forensic experts and their testimony in court. The law requires that forensic experts be trained and qualified in their respective fields and that their testimony be objective, impartial, and based on sound scientific principles.

Different kinds of evidence are handled by the Central Forensic Science Laboratories (CFSLs), State Forensic Science Laboratories (SFSLs), and District Forensic Science Laboratories (DFSLs). They are arranged into discrete categories, including general chemistry, explosives, toxicology, serology, drugs, ballistics, DNA, and computer forensics. At the moment, India is devoid of a coherent and all-encompassing legal structure to supervise its activities and guarantee compliance with stringent SOPs and protocols.

Regulating Forensic Laboratories

Understanding how various labs operate in relation to their governmental and non-governmental affiliations is crucial when it comes to forensic laboratory regulation. Thus, it becomes crucial to comprehend the distinct set of difficulties that both public and private laboratories encounter. Because public laboratories collaborate closely with law enforcement and are subject to corruption and bureaucratic pressure, they frequently lack administrative independence.3 So, the obvious question is: What kinds of regulations are appropriate for forensic laboratories? Divergent opinions have been adopted by various jurisdictions. For instance, the U.K. has shifted in favor of a controlled government strategy following the findings of recent studies indicating private laboratories could not satisfy strict requirements and produce unbiased results.4 However, the U.S.A. has gone contrary, to prevent compromising cutting-edge forensic techniques out of urgency or adversarial bias, national forensic authorities in the United States have demanded the creation of labs that operate independently of law enforcement administrators.5 A few attempts have been made in India to establish specific institutional frameworks to enact laws governing particular forensic science sub-disciplines. These remedies, however, are either flawed or have not been put into practice.6 Public and private laboratories provide varying quality services under the current Indian forensic science laboratory system, but there is little regulation and control. Creating a unified plan to regulate the business has proven to be quite challenging due to the public-private gap and the absence of clear legislative guidelines. Furthermore, the private sector has seen a hasty emergence of freelance or self-described forensic experts who can be hired for a charge due to an increase in demand for forensic science services.7 This is quite concerning since adding more forensic labs to an already disjointed laboratory system may result in increased backlogs, frequent mistakes, and poor quality control.8

Inadequate Resources

A forensic laboratory must have a standardized infrastructure and staff members who are professionally trained and competent to produce precise scientific results.9 Indian forensic specialists have expressed concerns about the uneven quality of services offered by forensic laboratories in various regions. These worries are mostly caused by variations in working circumstances, infrastructure, professional training, and the types and numbers of crimes that occur in various areas, as well as in how close resources are to one another.10 The use of DNA profiling and other biological procedures has increased significantly in response to a rise in terrible crimes, especially sexual offenses, for which many labs lack the necessary equipment.11 There are no certified reference resources available to help professionals, and excessively drawn-out standard operating procedures are not adhered to. A lack of established ethical guidelines reduces the objectivity of testing procedures. This might lead to a rise in unethical behaviors such as client exploitation, disinformation, abusing professional positions, and relying more on private parties.12 Thus, it is evident that the daily operation of forensic laboratories in India is beset by several structural and implementation issues. If these issues not be addressed immediately, our criminal justice system's basic underpinnings could be in danger.

Non-Regulation By Judiciary

Surprisingly, even in cases involving the death penalty, Indian criminal courts frequently rely on the oral testimony of witnesses, confessions, and circumstantial evidence. Indian courts have not been able to articulate precisely how much weight is placed on forensic evidence in criminal court cases over the years.13 Furthermore, Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 and other rules in the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973 have restricted discussions regarding scientific evidence to the opinions of experts.14 When contrasted with the quick advances in forensic science, these restrictions are out of date and outmoded. Additionally, courts have been reluctant to interpret these rules dynamically and to actively rely on forensic evidence. To this day, the admissibility of scientific evidence provided by experts is determined by Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act.15 This section does not give courts the power to order parties to provide physical samples, such as blood, semen, saliva, or hair, for analysis by scientists because it was written in an era when forensic science was still in its infancy. Section 45 also does not provide courts with guidance on how to evaluate the scientific validity of expert-presented forensic evidence.16 In a similar vein, courts are not required by Section 293 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to cross-examine the writer of a forensic report that is used as evidence in a criminal prosecution to evaluate the veracity of their claims. It is no longer necessary to prove the contents of these reports during the trial, as recent court rulings have confirmed that they are admissible when presented by a witness.17 Courts have even gone so far as to say that oral testimony from “reliable” witnesses or eyewitnesses should take precedence over medical evidence unless there is an unresolvable contradiction.18 The Supreme Court has reinforced that a court cannot cede its decision-making power by giving ‘inadequate’ or ‘ambiguous’ testimony from experts.19


The forensic science discipline in India is in a state of crisis. With the rapid advancement of science and interdisciplinary technology, investigations today demand complex evidence collection processes and crime scene analyses to arrive at scientifically precise and unbiased conclusions.20 The primary problem with a fragmented framework for forensic science laboratory examination is the dearth of current research, both at the macro and micro levels. Micro-level: the lack of information includes studies on quality assurance, the kinds of forensic techniques labs use, the existence of infrastructure that is well-equipped, and the observance of professional and ethical practice norms. Macro-economically, the lack of information affects policy and legislative decisions on the geographic distribution of forensic labs across the country, the services they offer, the number of cases they are currently working on, and their financial difficulties. The public's trust in crime investigation reports is at risk due to the lack of data at both levels, which also impedes the future growth of India's forensic science sector.

This article is authored by Vishal Kumar, a Delhi based lawyer.

1 ANI, ‘India's state forensic labs expanding infrastructure on back of rising demand for DNA Testing’ Business Standard (16 May 2019). (last accessed on January 2, 2024).
2 Ambily P., Ashna D. “Faulty Foundations : A Socio-Legal Critique of the Regulation of Forensic Science Laboratories in India”, 7.2 NLUJ LR (2021) 191.
3 Dr TR Baggi, ‘Why is Forensic Science Stunted and Static in India?’ The Hindu, 11 September 2011 (last accessed on Dec 31, 2023).
4 Steve Thomas, ‘Dubious Forensic Evidence? That's What Happens When We Sell Off Public Services’ The Guardian, 27 November 2017.
5 President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, ‘Report to the President : Forensic Science in Criminal Courts : Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods’ (2016) Executive Office of the President September 2016 .
6 Supra note 3.
7 Dr Gopal J Mishra and Dr C Damodaran, ‘Perspective Plan for Indian Forensics’ (2010) Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. FinalRpt_0.pdf
8 Brandon L Garrett, ‘The Costs and Benefits of Forensics’ (2020) 57 Houston Law Review 593, 600-602.
9 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, ‘Staff Skill Requirements and Equipment Recommendations for Forensic Science Laboratories’ (2011) United Nations.
10 Supra note 8.
11 PTI, ‘Need of the hour : Stepping up DNA technology in India to combat surge in rape cases’ Economic Times (2 June 2020).
12 JC Upshaw, Anjali Ranadive Swienton,81-135 Ethics in Forensic Science, Academic Press( Ch 4 2012) .
13 Subhash Chandra Singh, ‘DNA Profiling and the Forensic Use of DNA Evidence in Criminal Proceedings’, 195-217, Journal of the Indian Law Institute (2011) 53 (2).
14 NV Krishna Kumar, ‘Prudent to Use Forensic Evidence, to Decide Cases Justly and Conclusively’ The Leaflet (18 November 2020).
15 The Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 45.
16 Forensic Science in the Dock : The Questions We Are Not Asking’ LiveLaw (12 August 2020).
17 Dharampal v. State, MANU/DE/2956/2011; Chhotu Kumar v. State (Govt of NCT of Delhi) MANU/DE/0136/2021.
18 Ram Swaroop v. State of Rajasthan, MANU/SC/7360/2008; State of Uttar Pradesh v. Hari Chand, MANU/SC/0690/2009; Malappa Sidappa Alakumar v. State of Karnataka, MANU/SC/1120/2009.
19 Mahindra v. Sajjan Galfa Rankhamb, MANU/SC/0458/2017.
20 Supra note 3.
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