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Himachal Pradesh, First State to Enhance All Its Forensic Labs With Advanced DNA Testing Facilities

Business Wire India

L-R: Dr. Arun Sharma, Dr. V K Kashyap, Dr. Vivek Sahajpal
L-R: Dr. Arun Sharma, Dr. V K Kashyap, Dr. Vivek Sahajpal

  • Steps up Investment Across all State Laboratories
  • First FSL in India to upgrade and equip all labs with new DNA analysis technology
The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Himachal Pradesh is all set to make new DNA technology upgrades to its State and Range Forensic Science Laboratories (RFSLs) that will increase the number of cases being analyzed. The FSL in Junga is the first in the country to initiate well-equipped DNA facilities in all its labs across the state. The aim here is to accelerate the DNA profiling process that will lead to quicker investigation and trial, thus fast-tracking the criminal justice system.

According to a 3-year data shared by the Himachal Pradesh State FSL, sexual assault/rape makes up for 44% of the total cases received for DNA profiling. An unfortunate number of 900 cases are still pending for DNA analysis and 14% of this number are samples from victims of sexual assault. These new DNA technology upgrades will essentially bring down the number of unsolved sexual assault crimes in the state.

Addressing a media briefing in Shimla, Dr. Arun Sharma, Director, State Forensic Science Laboratory, Himachal Pradesh said, “In light of the state of heinous crimes in Himachal Pradesh, we are already working on upgrading our systems. To start with, we have invested over INR 1.50 Crore on a new 24 Capillary DNA Sequencer that will replace the older four-capillary sequencer; INR 30 Lakhs on a Robotic DNA Extraction System that enhances the quantity and quality of DNA extraction; and INR 1.25 Crore on purchasing automated DNA sequencers for our Range FSLs. Additionally, the lab has a training plan in consonance with ISO: 17025 standard and the same is being implemented effectively. We have already recruited 3 trained DNA experts and are in the process of training 2 more along with 4 new support staff.”

Mr. Sharma added that the new upgrades are already in the process of procurement and that they are in the final stages of monetary bid evaluation with the suppliers. These new equipments will be a part of FSL inventory within the next 4 – 8 weeks. 

Emphasizing on crime situation in the state, Dr. Vivek Sahajpal, Asst. Director (DNA), State Forensic Science Laboratory, Himachal Pradesh said, “A DNA Database is crucial to solve crimes involving repeat offenders. For example, serious crimes such as the rape and murder of a teacher in Poanta Sahib and the infamous Gudiya case reported recently indicate that a DNA Database would have helped to fast-track these cases. In fact, if we had a DNA database, cases such as the recent Navi Mumbai rape and murder case that took 8 years and 900 DNA profiles to nab the criminal could have been solved in a shorter period, thus saving many lives in the process.”
From a legal perspective, DNA evidence can have a massive impact on the investigation—Proving beyond reasonable doubt if the accused is the culprit or has been falsely implicated and is in fact innocent; it can connect unrelated crimes and even prevent crime itself. DNA profiling if managed effectively can be a turning point in investigation as well as the trial.
 
Highlighting his thoughts on the new DNA facility upgrades, Tim Schellberg, Founder & President, Gordon Thomas Honeywell—Governmental Affairs (GTH-GA) says, “Himachal Pradesh has taken a great step forward by upgrading its forensic facilities. This amazing initiative is in the right direction, aiding to facilitate more DNA casework, and create more DNA yield in a really short span of time, thus reducing backlogs and pendency in cases of heinous crimes. This successfully creates a strong premise towards DNA databasing in India.”

The Indian Government has already taken numerous steps towards initiating a successful databasing system and using DNA evidence to solve crime. The ‘Human DNA Profiling Bill’ has already been introduced in the Parliament and is all expected to be discussed in the Winter Session. Maneka Gandhi, Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development has already written to the Chief Minister of every state to seek funding for their forensic facilities through the Nirbhaya Fund.

Furthermore, The Ministry of Home Affairs has released a set of guidelines/Standard Operating Procedures on how to collect, preserve and transport crime scene DNA. These guidelines have been adapted from International processes and customized to suit the Indian laws and regulations. A much-needed initiative, these guidelines enable the law enforcement to do their job more effectively, leading to a decrease in contaminated DNA being sent to the FSLs, thus resulting in a valuable DNA sample that can enable successful investigation and trial.

On the matter of the DNA database, there have been several associated privacy concerns. However, contrary to popular belief, DNA database store profiles of convicted criminals who’ve committed serious crimes only. Furthermore, the unique DNA profile created does not reveal any information on genetic health or other characteristics such as hair, color, age, built, height, intelligence, except gender.About Gordon Thomas Honeywell

Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs is globally recognized public affairs consultancy firm that has expertise with forensic DNA database policy, legislative, and law. For nearly twenty years, consultants at GTH-GA have consulted in over 50 countries and states on legislation and policies to establish or expand criminal offender DNA databases. GTH-GA collaborates closely with governmental officials, crime labs, police and the DNA industry. GTH-GA operates the DNAResource.com website that has been used as the world’s primary source for DNA database policy and legislative information since 2000.