Effective Utilization of Forensics to Achieve Justice – Need of the Hour!
Forensic science, over the years and in modern law, has been regarded as one of the most important components in building a case against prime suspects. It involves the application of technology and advanced scientific methods to the investigation of crime, thus enabling investigators to dig out major leads from a blind crime scene, even in cases where unconventional or old school techniques may be used by criminals.
There is no doubt that the state of forensic science in Pakistan has come a long way despite significant hurdles. The recent case of a child abuse and murder victim from Kasur sheds great light on the utility of good quality forensic evidence as an investigative tool in achieving justice. However, much more needs to be done. In a recent conference held at Punjab Forensic Science Agency, European Union Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain asserted how the use of forensic evidence in the judicial process is still underestimated in Pakistan. DNA evidence in particular seems to have a hard run in Pakistan, coming up against entrenched socio-cultural and religious views. This was seen in a rape trial when a criminal court rejected a DNA report that incriminated suspects and instead acquitted them based on eye-witness evidence! Even though trends seem to be changing following the development of Zainab murder case, a lot more needs to be done.
Currently, no comprehensive database of DNA exists in Pakistan to match samples from terrorism crime scenes against stored evidence. Even traditionally followed practices are not up to the required standard. The chain of custody of forensic evidence seized is not satisfactory since the evidence collected is either not properly sealed or kept with the police pending dispatch. And sometimes the evidence is actually lost in police custody.
The establishment of an autonomous agency for forensic sciences in the wake of the Eighteenthth Amendment to the Constitution has strengthened the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in Punjab. With the Punjab Forensic Science Agency at their aid, the LEAs in Punjab are now better placed to track down criminals and prevent crime. However, to attain similar benefits, other provinces also need to proceed towards setting up autonomous agencies to oversee and develop forensic science infrastructure in their jurisdictions.
In fact, all pillars of the criminal justice system in Pakistan should evolve a culture of reliance on forensic evidence. All institutions should now create internal accountability mechanisms to ensure the proper collection, recording, analysis, assessment and admissibility of forensic evidence.
The development of basic and specialized forensic facilities at all levels across the country is definitely the need of the hour. Basic forensic science laboratories should be established at the district level as well. That said, national and provincial forensic science agencies should also support them with technical and training assistance.
Moreover, the relevant ministries should now take measures to enact forensic legislation. It shall be a legal document, written and authenticated under rules and law, and binding on federal and provincial establishments of criminal justice.
Also, the forensic awareness media campaign to educate the masses can go a long way in maintaining the integrity of a crime scene in Pakistan. Similarly, an association of forensic scientists under the regular supervision of Ministry of Interior should be established with the aim of leading forensics-related reforms in Pakistan in the near future.
The Kasur incident has given us all a wakeup call in realizing how forensic science is the most accurate and undeniable tool of investigation in today’s world. Let’s hope that in the coming years we will be witnessing more advancement in the field of forensics in providing more timely and speedy justice.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which she might be associated.