Lacuna in Understanding of Forensic Science Among Lawyers in India

This was a pilot study done to empirically document the existing gap in knowledge and understanding of forensic evidences, procedures and analyses among law professionals involved in criminal case trials. The study undertakes to understand the factors that result in this lacuna and based on that information, conduct further research or training to inform the participating stakeholders of the criminal justice system, where possible.

Research Findings

A range of qualitative interview were conducted with practicing lawyers, judges and law teachers to understand the foundational basis of their understanding of forensic evidence and how it is used in court. The results dictate that scientific evidence, although considered very important and given considerable weightage in court, is rarely presented. Then again, there are some kinds of evidences that are presented more than others – fingerprints, medico-legal reports, toxicology reports, DNA, ballistics etc. The impediments to better use of forensic evidence in courts has been attributed to limitations of both science and law. Laboratory analysis is often done poorly, resulting in reports that cannot be used as part of the trial. Experts who appear as witnesses are known to overstate the significance and certainty of their results. The scientists in India do not keep update with developments in the forensic area, such as the doubts raised against the individuality of bitemarks. Lawyers and judges, on the other, do not have an acute understanding of scientific analysis, and are often apprehensive or unaware of challenging questionable analyses. There are also no clear guidelines about how to go about submitting scientific evidence or expert testimony beyond a few Sections in the Indian Evidence Act and such.

Outcomes of the Project

Paper was presented in the 9th Biennial and 5th International Conference of the Indian Society of Victimology, Kolkata, India (January 2016) and the 18th International Conference on Sociology and Criminology, Paris, France (June 2016) The pilot study came to form the basis of further research projects developed by the principal investigator in 2018-19