High Court of Karnataka directs the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority to assist the court Matter relation to Forensic Science:
On Thursday, the high court of Karnataka directed the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority to intervene and assist the court in a suo-motu petition initiated regarding lack of proper infrastructure and filling up vacancies at Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL) in the state.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice M.G.S. KAMAL said:
“This suo-motu PIL concerns very important issues which have direct bearing on the administration of justice on the criminal side. We direct Karnataka State Legal Aid Services Authority (KSLSA) to intervene and appoint a learned counsel to assist the court.”
The court directed the registry to supply a copy of the petition along with affidavits to the secretary of the authority and posted the matter for hearing on April 1. The court had initiated the proceedings based on the order passed by a single judge bench, dated December 22, 2020 in which it had issued several directions to the state government for filling up of vacancies.
The single judge bench had in its order directed the state government to draw up an action plan as regards the pending samples, the timelines within which reports regarding these samples would be filed before the concerned court. Guidelines be issued as regards the time period in which a particular kind of sample would be examined and report submitted to the concerned court, as regards future samples received. The court had even directed the state to establish a monitoring system to monitor the passage of the sample from the time it was collected to the date of submission of the report in Court. To carry out a study as regards the latest equipment available, modernisation of the Laboratories, a process of the equipment to be updated from time to time is also to be put in place.
The court had observed :
“For a state like Karnataka, which is stated to be the front runner in Information Technology with Bangalore being the Silicon Valley of the east, it is rather anomalous and unacceptable that there is only one FSL which has 13 sections functioning.”
There are no specific guidelines laid down as regards the timelines to be followed by each of the stakeholders during the above process nor is there any monitoring system established to monitor the passage of the sample from the time it was collected to the date of submission of the report in Court. The court took into account the fact that there are 6994 cases which are pending trial, on account of the reports from the FSL not having been received. There are more than 35738 samples pending examination.
In a previous hearing the court had said
“According to us, the failure of the state government to provide proper infrastructure and machinery to FSL will have a direct correlation with the criminal justice system and delay will result in a violation of Fundamental Rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
As per details given to the court, three posts of joint directors, seven posts of deputy directors, 18 posts of assistant directors, 35 posts of senior scientific officers and 138 posts of scientific officers are vacant at various FSLs in the state. A report in relation to a Narcotic matter takes 1 year, Computer/mobile/audio-video forensics takes about 1 and half year, a DNA test takes 1 and half years, these being average time