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This article is written by Preeti Pallavi Jena, a student pursuing a bachelor of law from the school of law, KIIT University, Odisha. This article talks about Forensic Evidence and its role with some relevant case laws.

Introduction

The scientific experts’ evidence is more relied on from time to time with the increasing growth in science and technology. In today’s generation, it is very often that the court asks for scientific evidence. This scientific evidence comes as an opinion and is produced in the court, the final decision will always depend on the judge itself so that the judgment should be impartial in nature.

Everywhere in the world, people are wrongfully convicted of crimes that they don’t even commit. These convictions which arise can be saved by the forensic evidence obtained from the crime place with the help of the advice given by the experts. Thus, the authenticity and admissibility of the forensic evidence are needed to be addressed. This evidence has a higher value. It can either save a person or can punish a person by providing evidence for the crime. 

Evidence

It is proof which can be any document, pictures, marks, recordings, videos presented in front of the court to prove a person either guilty or innocent. This can also be given as a witness. The statements given by the lawyers are not termed as evidence.

Forensic Science

It is a function in the legal system for having contribution in getting justice in a criminal procedure. Any evidence which can make investigators identify the criminal easily amounts to forensic evidence. This can be strands of hair, any specific mark, fingerprints of any person, etc. The scientists of the forensic help the police in identifying the criminal by finding the detective details thoroughly received from the crime scene. They do a lot of research and study the details.

It means that science has been used for the purpose of the law. The science which is used in forensic determines the nature of evidence, identifying the DNA match, fingerprints, etc. This evidence can be provided by a scientist who is excellent in his work and will provide the evidence by examining various tests in which he is an expert. This forensic evidence is used for criminal proceedings and also while the investigation goes on. They provide small details that help the officers-in-charge of the investigation processes. This also helps in linking crimes and identifying the connection in them by knowing the patterns of the crime scene and this makes it easier in identifying the suspects.

DNA Testing

DNA stands for DeoxyriboNucleic Acid. DNA is found in all living cells. It is extracted from bones, hair, blood, urine. It was invented by Swiss Scientist Friedrich Micscher in 1869. A DNA test is always relied upon because it is unique and different in every person. This test is done to detect the crime, to identify and match the parents of the child, etc. This test helps a lot in criminal cases also where there is a dispute of succession.

The lawyers and judges are not having ample knowledge with the reference to science and technology and that is the reason why experts are assigned to conduct the test and give their opinion. This helps the judge in finding the truth in most criminal cases. Previously there was a problem with respect to who will evaluate the forensic evidence. Is it the judge or the scientific experts? But finally, it was concluded that the judges have the power to have the final discussion, this is because maybe, there is a chance that the forensic evidence can be conflicted in nature.

How does Forensic Evidence help in Investigations

This evidence provides proof against a person who could have committed the crime. This evidence plays a vital role while investigating an important case study. When forensic evidence is used, the court cannot be biased and there is very little chance for the judgment to be made to provide injustice to the innocent.

Forensic science can find out who the suspect is, the nature of the crime, the time when the crime occurred, also sometimes the location of the crime and the reason behind committing the crime. It gives scientific information from the physical evidence which is collected like from phones, weapons used, footprints, and many more.

Under Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 it is said when a court can rely upon the opinions of the court. The court can form opinions upon any foreign law, science, art, finger impressions, handwriting, and identification by any person who is especially skilled in it called an expert. But the experts are only advisors and are not witnesses because they have not seen the crime happening, they are just giving opinions through their research with respect to science. But the principle of the opinion of experts is necessary. Expert advice helps the court of law lead to a conclusion. They mostly rely upon it because these experts are having experience in studying these kinds of research.

Just like India, England also accepts the opinions of the expert as an exception to the ‘Opinion Rule’. In the US, the first step for the determination of the admissibility of scientific evidence occurred in 1923. The US legal system struggles a lot to determine the admissibility of forensic evidence. The main problem here is to decide how much weightage to be given the advice given by the experts with the forensic evidence.

In India most of the time in the case of criminal justice, the innocents are punished and the person who is guilty will escape. Due to this reason, the reform needs to be improved and effective. Hence, the Committee known as the ‘Malimath Committee’ recommended that the importance of forensic science needs to be given in modern technology for investigations and criminal procedures.

Landmark cases

Nitish Kumar murder case

In this case, it was very difficult to find the person guilty because only a small portion of the palm with the finger was left unburned. But with the help of forensic science DNA test was conducted and it helped in identifying and recognizing the body by matching the DNA with the parents. This also helped the High Court of Delhi to identify the accused.

Sushil Mandal v. The State

In this case, the father of a deceased boy is the petitioner who challenged the findings of the DNA. The boy who died fell on the adolescent cusp of mutual infatuation with a girl of his school. Hence, the parents of both the families were requested by the principal of the school for having a check on the children. After a few days, the boy was found missing, and after a week, a body was found in a lake that was totally decomposed and hence unidentifiable. The petitioner was not able to identify the body, the clothes were also not there to identify that he is his own son. He filed a habeas corpus petition in the High Court alleging the girl’s father and requesting the High Court to direct the investigation through CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation).

Then the DNA test was conducted by the experts and the DNA of the deceased person matched with the petitioner and his wife also. There was also a skull superimposition test. This test also found a link between the deceased and the recovered body. But the petitioner was not able to accept the truth. The truth came only when the scientific tests were conducted. The apex court relied on the scientific tests that were conducted and hence with the matter got closed.

Field v. Leeds City Council

In this case, the court held that the evidence which is produced by the experts, highly skilled persons must be unbiased in nature and should be relevant evidence with reference to the issue concerned. It also satisfied that the evidence could not have been brought by any lawyer. They provide information that is outside the limit of the judge and that’s why this helps them to come to a correct decision. Though the judge has the power to accept or reject the evidence produced by the experts by doing various examinations. These experts only have the right to give opinions not the final decision of the proceedings taking place.

Magan Bihari Lal v. the State of Punjab

In the case, it is a famous case where the Supreme Court struck down and set aside the conviction on the basis of the experts identifying the handwriting. The Supreme Court said that the opinion of an expert must be received with caution.

Frye v US 1928 

In this case, the Columbia court rejected the validity of the polygraph because, in that period, the invention had no substantial acceptance. The court provided guidelines on the admissibility of experimental examination proceedings. This Frye Test can be applied only if a court has a reasonable portion of the relevant scientific community which has approved this method. This Frye Test was again modified in 1975 when there was the adoption of Federal Rules of Evidence in the federal courts. This created flexibility and no strict acceptance was made. This modified rule also provided guidelines on evidence.

The first edition of the Federal Rule requires a person to qualify as an expert if –

  • The evidence which is found is true in nature and have provided relevant information.
  • The science and technology which is known by the expert provides evidence regarding solving the disputes with finding out the truth.

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc,1993

In the case of, the court explained that the Federal Rule includes general acceptance but it also sees the science. The Daubert court mentioned that the evidence which they are not sure of given by forensic science can be determined as true by the process of vigorous cross-examination and viewing the proof which is provided. Many states use the Daubert standards but there are also few states who still follow the federal rules.

Rule 702

In 1975, after a half-century of Frye Rule, the Federal Rules were adopted for the purpose of litigation in almost all federal courts. They rely on the experts’ advice and the tests which they do to find out the actual truth of the crime.

The alternative method to Frye Rule came because it did not strictly avail general acceptance and was more flexible in nature. The first Federal Rule of Evidence 702 gave witnesses who are qualified to be an expert, who is skilled, experienced and well educated can do such tests. Each state is allowed to follow its own rules, but most of the States started following the Federal Rules with the experts’ testimony. These experts make the complicated facts simpler and it becomes easier on the part of a lawyer and judge to take the proceedings of the case further and it also provides a huge benefit to the court in finding out the conclusions of the case without any disturbances. 

Conclusion

The main relevance of using forensic science for producing evidence is for availing a fair justice. This is done so that the actual crime should be punished and not the innocent one. Forensic evidence has always helped in many cases for identifying the actual criminal and then the court provides him with punishment. The forensic evidence is more valuable than the general evidence produced in the court. Though sometimes there are some flaws in the evidence, which is very rare. More experts should be recognized for always providing information and relevant evidence regarding the case, and hence the case can be solved on that basis. There can be more development in the country by making our forensic science grow. This can make strict rules on punishing the accused.

References


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