‘EVERY contact leaves a trace’, this statement of Edmond Locard weighs the significance of forensic evidence in a very articulate manner. Following this notion, the science of collecting and analysing physical evidence has come a long way through the use modern technology. The accuracy and conclusiveness of forensic evidence sometimes make criminal investigations errorless and fair to a great extent. Finger print, foot print, DNA testing, blood spatter analysis, etc are recent developments in criminal science that narrow down the scope of investigations, make the life of police officers a little bit easier and help in justice dispensation. For example, a simple blood spatter pattern can unravel the exact position of the victim, the depth of the cut, the murder weapon and, sometimes, even the height of the killer. The main purpose of collecting and processing any evidence is to produce it in the court of law for the purpose of ensuring conviction.
In Bangladesh, criminal investigation is mainly governed by three legislation — the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, the Evidence Act 1872 and the Police Regulations of Bengal 1943. These three instruments, however, do not provide any direct provisions governing the collection and management of forensic evidence; they provide for some relevant regulations regarding criminal investigations.
The government passed the Deoxyribonucleic Acid Act in September 2014, which is regarded as a remarkable instrument in the field of criminal investigation for crime detention. According to the act, the government will establish a national DNA database which will maintain the secrecy of information on DNA profiling. There will be two committees under this law. One is an advisory committee which will be composed of the minister of state for women and children affairs, the secretary of the ministry and other people concerned. There will be another technical committee. Moreover, a directorate will be created under the women and children affairs ministry under the act. The point to be noted is that admissibility of DNA evidence in court will be determined by metropolitan magistrates or judicial magistrates keeping to the law. This law has significant provisions regarding the punishments relating to offences such as unauthorised DNA testing, unauthorised access to the national database, etc. For conducting illegal forensic DNA activities, the punishments are a maximum of five years and a minimum of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of Tk 300,000; in the case of collecting samples and publishing DNA-related information illegally, the punishments are a maximum of three years and a minimum of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of Tk 50,000. Moreover, for destroying, changing and tainting DNA samples, the punishments are a maximum of 10 years and a minimum of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of Tk 500,000. In cases of unauthorised access to the national DNA database, the offender will be punished with two years’ imprisonment and a fine of Tk 30,000.
In recent times, our criminal justice system has done other technological advancement to apply forensic science to our justice system; however, there is a question: why are many of the cases still pending for lack of proper forensic reports. In this regard, two sensational cases can be mentioned such as the Sohagi Jahan Tonu murder case and the case of double murder of journalist couple Sagar Sarowar and his wife Meherun Runi. In the first case, two post-mortem examinations were done to help investigators as the first one drew huge criticism as it on April 4, 2016 said that Tonu was not raped. The second and post-mortem report, published on June 12, revealed the news of sperm of three people being found in the corpse. In the double-murder case, several difficulties surfaced when no viscera test was conducted during the first post-mortem examination. Moreover, many people entered the crime scene which also contaminated the DNA samples that were later discovered in the laboratories. After that, a court order was issued for the second post-mortem examination two and a half months after the murder. However, the bodies were severely decomposed. Forensic experts said that it would have been easier if the test had been done during the first post-mortem examination.
There are still some technical drawbacks in collecting physical evidence. It is important to mention that physical evidence is also a vital evidence in solving criminal cases. In every criminal case, the confession of the accused is considered evidence in court. As per the procedure of taking a confession according to the Evidence Act 1872, every confession must be taken in the presence of a magistrate. Therefore, similarly forensic test and report should be prepared in the presence of a magistrate so that no contamination and forgery in report can taken palce. If the first investigation goes wrong, it becomes more difficult to find out evidence in later investigations as bodies start decomposing within a few days.
We have well established laws and system for collecting forensic evidence and use the evidence in the court. However, society or victim should first help themselves by doing the forensic test at the right time especially in the case of sexual assault. Forensic evidence provides for precision in proving the connection of a person to the crime — it either proves someone is guilty or it proves their innocence. The use of forensic evidence is a very efficient method and its proper use will only contribute to the furtherance of the criminal justice system.
With contemporary global changes and progresses, overseas strategies of forensic science is developed not only around the world but also in Bangladesh in the field of criminal investigation. This flow of development should be continued both theoretically and in practice.
Monira Nazmi Jahan is a senior lecturer in law at the East West University.
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