Sunday, May 19, 2024

Forensic Investigation And Adaption Of Technology In India: Do Both Work In Tandem?

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Forensics is one term that evokes interest every time and at all times of day. It is through forensics that major crimes are detected across the world. Globally, research in this field is happening intensively and technology, mainly smart tech, is being continuously adapted by investigators to detect crimes and to bring criminals to book. This is true of all the nations of the world.

Now, the questions that naturally come to mind every time forensics is spoken of in India is “How are our investigators doing here? What is the state of forensics in our country? Are our law enforcement agencies equipped enough to detect crimes early?” These queries are generally a result of the societal concern and to prevent future crimes altogether through early detection such that the perpetrators (of the crime) are convicted in courts.

To obtain clarity on the state of forensic investigation In India and to check the rate of technology adaption, we spoke to experts in the domain (forensics) who threw light on different aspects that brought to light surprising facts.

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First things first, forensic experts are called in only when required

At this point in time, it is worth understanding that the role of forensic sciences and associated experts comes in only after first-time responders usually the police constables (and the inspectors) visit the scene of the crime for assessment. Forensic investigators are called in only if the crime is of a very serious nature and requires expertise that is generally not available with the conventional police officers.

“Forensic experts are called in only based on the seriousness of the crime,” states an investigation officer and forensic expert on the condition of annonymity. This means that evidence collection at the initial stages is done by the officers of the law enforcement agencies.

Experts rate this method as non-scientific as there is a tendency to improperly collect evidences in the absence of forensic experts thereby leading to courts deeming these evidences as ‘unacceptable’. These evidences are generally also not considered during the hearing of the case.

Forensic Sciences is also taught at major universities of the country to better research on the subject and improve investigation of crimes for early detection. Remember that early detection of crimes could potentially act as a deterrent to criminals.

“Few of the Forensic Science Laboratories (FSLs) in the country have advanced equipments,” adds the IO. The target here is to establish world-class forensics facilities with qualified experts and with laboratories technically equipped.

The Ground reality of investigations

In fact, former investigation officers and, current forensic experts feel that there is still a long way to go with respect to attaining technical brilliance for investigation of crimes. Experts believe that this approach should begin at the ground level (at the scene of the crime) by the police officials, while the collection of evidences, samples, and traces are are transferred to the FSLs.

“Even in today’s modern world, our investigators depend on their intuition, during investigation at the crime scenes. Old methods are still used. These not only lead to considerable time delays, but also results in scenarios where evidence is not properly collected leading to acquittal of the accused by the courts,” state experts who spoke to us on the condition of annonymity.

Forensic experts also unanimously voiced for better technology absorption by the investigators.

“Presently, the IO’s do not use any modern technologies while investigating the crime scenes,” adds yet another forensic expert.

“With their past experience the IO’s try relating the crime with already noted perpetrator which cannot suffice in today’s world. Courts always require and consider scientific proof”

This statement is potentially an indicator of the ground-level investigation of crimes. Also, with technology penetration now at an all-time high, the immediate need of the hour is to derive technical brilliance. However, it cannot be stated that our investigators are currently bad, multiple high-profile cases have been detected and solved within short intervals. The aspect worth remembering here is that there have been instances where crimes were detected very shortly after occurrence even before the technology (and mobile-phone) boom in India.

Like stated above, it was the clever with and intuition of the investigation officers that led them to the perpetuators. Now, with technology, intuition of investigators would undoubtedly improve whilst offloading initial burden on the IOs.

One fundamental technology that can be potentially harnessed by investigators (for digital forensics) is the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT Mining and analysis of smart concepts should serve as potential boons because an IoT network would make associated devices smart thereby leading to easy collection of data, and upon analysis, crimes can be analysed and even detected.

It is also advised by the industry experts that the Home Department collaborates with the Law & Justice department in clearly defining the kind of evidences that will be admissible by the courts so that there is no confusions or lapses by police in collection of evidences from crime scene and submitting to the courts.

This process will potentially help in speedy conclusions of cases thus improving the justice delivery system by providing justice on time to the victim.

It is high time for the Indian Police to adopt scientific methods in collection of evidences during investigation by embracing technologies adopted globally. The country need to be fully equipped and the state and the district forensic science and finger print departments, provide qualified technicians, provide basic to advance training at the police training institutes   

“Finer aspects such as the data & time, location and even the IP address of an IoT connected device can be traced. This is from the device level itself, investigators can then mine data on the cloud. This can then be analysed upon with the data at the device level to obtain patterns which could lead to the perpetuator,” states another forensic expert.

Cybercrimes are now being combated at a war footing thanks to the setting up of specialised cyber-crime cells at the state levels. An instance here is the cyber police station that was recently established in Bengaluru to help victims of digital frauds.

Penetration of smart technology within forensics – status check

With IoT and smart technology viz. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Neural Networks being the current buzzword among the Indian technological community, technologists are naturally enthusiastic about offering solutions to the law enforcement agencies.

“To the best of my knowledge, IoT is yet to enter the nuances of crime investigation,” state forensic experts and former investigation officers. Officers also suggest alternatives here:

“Applications connecting officers all over the country can help in resolving cases. This is achieved through effective and faster communication whilst breaking geographical barriers.”

The need of the hour is clearly visible, by gauging the above statements. Equipping and training law enforcement agencies on modern technology should reside on the top of the minds of government policy makers.

Nonetheless, a positive aspect here is that tapping of technology is already happening. The best illustration would be the mining of smartphones (and related data) of the crime suspects along with the devices of their relatives and contacts; to get time-based and real-time information. Mobile phones, today are seen as the most important clues while investigating crimes.

The technical way forward

Experts believe that the onus on modernising the law enforcement agencies (predominantly comprising the police force) lies with the states. Also, usage of certain scientific methods sometimes require approval by the courts.

“Technology such as Brain Finger Printing which is an admissible evidence internationally has to be made admissible in India too, this can resolve many cases as the associated devices is very effective and gives 98% accurate results by getting the hidden information from the suspect’s mind without any invasive/sedation methods,” advises a leading vendor of forensic products in India.

At this point in time, it is worth noting that to conduct tests like brain mapping and narco-analysis, the consent of the suspect is to be obtained first, post the consent, courts are at liberty to either approve or reject investigators’ plea of subjecting suspects to brain mapping and related ‘psychic’ evaluation.

As far as modernising law enforcement agencies are concerned, the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the government could offer thrust to the manufacturing of forensic equipment in the country in tandem with consultation and expertise available in other economies viz. the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), and more. Allowing for intensive investments in this sector, akin to the defence sector, could also potentially better forensic facilities.

Mitigation of plaguing issues

As far as actual investigation via forensics is concerned, experts throw light on a range of nagging issues that currently require mitigation on a war footing (by the department personnel themselves):

  • Shortage of personnel and experts to deploy forensic techniques at the ground level during investigation.
  • Even in the case of forensic deployment at the ground level, experts feel that the attitude of the IOs (and police personnel) is pathetic throughout the country. Lack of co-ordination is also highlighted here. This leads to missing vital evidences from the scene of the crime. Experts also believe that mitigation of these problems can be achieved through adaption of scientific methods in tandem with professionalism.
  • Improper and incomplete communication with forensic equipment vendors is also quoted as an inadequacy. “If we can convince the department, and once they decide to procure the product the normal process takes at least two years to technically evaluating the product, tendering, and placing order”, stated the forensic products vendor.

Another major issue, plaguing forensic investigations, is the inadequacy within the FSLs.

“We are trying to equip the FSLs with modern equipments, tools and scientific methods which the world adopts today to zero down the criminal from the evidences collected from crime scene,” adds the forensic equipments vendor.

“Many awareness programs, presentations, and demonstrations have been done by us across India. The potential business is at thirty six states and seven hundred districts to be equipped. The problem is that of allotting the budget for states is taking tremendous time.”

Proposed solutions – straight from vendors

We spoke to vendors to get insights on how they plan to help in modernisation of forensic infrastructure in India. One solution (and product) suggested was a 3D interactive training software simulator that helps police trainees derive hands-on experience on the Dos and Don’t’s at crime scenes. Finer aspects such as evidence detection, collection, packaging, and storage via scientific methods and tools; are also touched upon.

“Our product is to be installed at police training institutes across India, we have even sold these to certain states. But even after purchasing they do not use the simulator as this is not part of their course,” states a Chennai-based Forensic products vendor.

This vendor stated that they are ready to supply state-of-the-art crime investigation kits for presumptive tests, laboratory tests; and even fully mobile FSLs that can be taken to the scene of the crime for early solving of cases.

Technology – as a deterrent to crime, rather than an aid

All said and done, employment of technology by investigators should instil fear in the minds of criminals and perpetuators of crime. Early detection and solving of crimes would undoubtedly be the right step in this direction.

“Using scientific methods driven by technology, not only can criminals be brought to book, but they should potentially think that technology is not an aid for crime,” sign off experts.

Experts Consulted:

Former investigation officers who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity
Anonymous Current investigation officers
Forensic Equipment vendors who requested total anonymity


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