Lack of sufficient forensic labs delaying trial in criminal cases: Kerala HC to state govt

Kerala High Court. Photo: Mathrubhumi Archives

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday asked the LDF government to wake up to the reality that there were not sufficient forensic and chemical labs in the state which in turn was resulting in delaying of trial in criminal cases as analysis reports were not being furnished to courts in time.

The HC said it was high time that the state set up enough forensic and chemical labs, spruced up their infrastructure and employed more technical personnel to ensure that reports are provided to trial courts within three weeks of providing the samples for analysis.

It said if reports were being delayed, "then the only conclusion that can be arrived at was that the system has collapsed and needs resuscitation".

The High Court further said forensic science was an "indispensable branch of jurisprudence" which was also considered as "one of the most deadly weapons in the armoury of the investigator".

"As we have not invested our time and effort in establishing cutting-edge labs and in employing skilled scientific officers to aid in all phases of the criminal investigation process, the acquittal rate is alarmingly high. The common refrain that we hear in court is that labs are working far beyond their capacity and thousands of samples forwarded much earlier are yet to be tested.

"It is common knowledge that thousands of samples are lying in labs and it would take years to analyse the same. The pendency in the labs is mind boggling. The less said the better. Obviously, a state like Kerala where the crime rate is high requires enough labs with highly-skilled scientific officers and state-of-the-art equipment," the high court said.

It further said the testing of samples "must be swift, efficient and accurate" and the reports ought to reach courts as expeditiously as possible, but not later than an outer limit of three weeks after receiving a sample.

The observations by the high court came during the bail hearing of a man who had in 2019 hacked to death a married woman after she resisted his advances.

The man, in his bail plea, had contended he was suffering from various mental ailments and even the sessions judge had found that medical insanity of the accused was prima facie proved.

The high court said an accused seeking exoneration has to prove legal insanity and not medical insanity and the former can be proved only at the stage of trial.

It said presently it was only considering whether a mentally sick person needs to languish in prison "due to the inability of the criminal justice system to expedite the trial".

"The trial has been delayed due to the failure of the Forensic Science Lab in forwarding the reports to the Court of Session. The Court of Session cannot be faulted as it would not be possible to commence the trial without the analysis reports," it added.

The high court, therefore, said that in view of the entire facts and circumstances of the case, the accused can be granted bail subject to him furnishing a bond of Rs 1 lakh with two solvent sureties of the like amount.

The accused was also directed not to intimidate or attempt to influence the witnesses nor tamper with the evidence in the case. PTI

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