Goa took one step forward in establishing itself as a educational hub as Union Minister for Home Affairs and Cooperation Amit Shah performed ‘Bhoomi Pujan and Shilanyas’ of National Forensic Sciences University (NFSU) permanent campus at Dharbandora. At a time when India is facing a dearth of forensic scientists, the Dharbandora facility could make a huge difference. Also, this could be a moment of reckoning and pride for the much neglected Dharbandora taluka, an area that was majorly dependent on agriculture and mining.
Amit Shah said Goa will produce a maximum number of forensic scientists and professionals who in turn will help to strengthen the law and order situation in the country. Plans to make crime site visits mandatory for forensic teams is a welcome step to facilitate an investigation. However, the assumption that paucity of trained manpower in the field of forensic science is affecting conviction rates and leads to piling up of cases is not entirely true. Forensic science is a versatile and powerful tool in crime investigation, and scientists in this field collect, preserve and analyse evidence. It becomes a powerful tool that provides crucial guidance to law enforcement agencies conducting a criminal investigation.
If the discourse is over refining the delivery of criminal justice, then there is a mismatch in priorities. It is intriguing why the government is sitting over a crucial component of criminal investigation and still relying on laboratories in Hyderabad to source forensic reports. Lest we forget, the State government which sanctioned a forensic lab in 2001 a good two decades back, could manage to establish the Goa Forensic Science Laboratory only in 2013, and that too, not a fully operational one.
If the government believes that forensics can help the State to better its conviction record, why was it not a priority?
A full-fledged forensic laboratory will be a boon for investigations into serious and heinous crimes, and will drastically cut down delays caused in obtaining reports, besides helping in better administration of criminal justice. If we may recall, last October the Bombay High Court at Goa had expressed deep disappointment over the State government’s failure to operationalise the Goa Forensic Science Laboratory at Verna. The court stated that the NDPS Act is frustrated on account of the non-availabilityof proper facilities in Goa. While pointing out that prosecutions are delayed and suspects, by default, are released on bail, the court observed that it is an extremely sorry state that should be redressed by authorities with a greater sense of urgency and responsibility.
On a more positive side, at a time where cybercrimes are on the rise, Goa recently got its first digital forensic lab operationalised at the cybercrime cell in Ribandar. The facility provides a wide range of digital forensics capabilities that could help in tracking and reporting cybercrimes.
The government’s move to establish a national-level college in forensics must be commended, it’s a major positive for the State. However, state-of-the-art projects like the forensic lab at Verna and the fish testing facility in Margao, have been announced with much fanfare and promise, but have fizzled out somewhere. These were also crucial to the State. There has to be a sync between projects and the urgent requirements of the State.