DNA Profiling in Criminal Cases in India: "Use" of DNA fingerprinting and "Judicial Approach"
Author: Sarabjit Kaur
Designation: B.A LLB student, Lloyd Law College Greater Noida.
Email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) has increasingly become one of the most reliable forms of evidence in criminal cases; ensuring justice through accuracy in the criminal justice system. A DNA test to establish a link or relation between two persons or living organisms by analyzing their STR and VNTRs is known as DNA fingerprinting. British geneticist Alec Jeffrey introduced DNA profiling (earlier referred to as ‘DNA fingerprinting’) in 1984. The Colin Pitchfork case became the first criminal case leading to conviction using DNA evidence. Conversely, the case of Gary Dotson was the first wherein conviction was overturned using DNA evidence. Dr. Lalji Singh is known as a father of DNA fingerprinting in India.
In India, Sections 53 and 54 of the Code of the Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) impliedly provide for DNA tests in complex criminal cases. Section 53 deals with the examination of the accused person by a registered medical practitioner at the request of a police officer (not below the rank of sub-inspector) if there are reasonable grounds to believe that an examination of his person will afford evidence as to the commission of an offence. Section 54, CrPC provides that the arrested person can also request for such an examination in the interest of justice.
Section 53 A, CrPC was added via the 2005 amendment to specifically deal with examination of persons accused of rape.
In Krishan Kumar Malik vs State of Haryana, it was held that “after the incorporation of sec 53 (A) in Cr.P.C, it has become necessary for the prosecution to go in the DNA test in such type of cases, facilitating the prosecution to prove its case against the accused.”
DNA evidence has led to several convictions in India through Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (IEA). Section 45, IEA provides that the Court can seek the opinion of experts upon a point of foreign law or of science and such opinion will be considered as a relevant fact. There is no specific legislation on the subject of DNA evidence but DNA testing got legal validity in 1989. In India, Kunhiraman v. Manoj was the first paternity dispute which was resolved through DNA evidence.
In the case of Raghuvir Dessai vs State, a school peon sexually assaulted and raped a minor, and the case was of denial simpliciter. The DNA test proved to be clinching evidence, as the semen samples from the accused and those on the victim's clothes were found to be a positive match.
In the case of Anmol Singh, Swarn Singh Jabbal v. The State of Maharashtra, life term was upheld relying upon DNA evidence, in addition to other evidences, in the case of murder of a young lady engineer by her colleague. In the case of Inspector of Police v. John David, 2011 and Vishal Yadav v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2014, DNA profiling was utilized for human identification.
Despite the conclusiveness, DNA profiling has its own limitations with speculations around purity of samples during collection and their consecutive, proper examination. In Rajiv Singh v. The State of Bihar, referred to OJ Simpson case and thereby noted the possible errors at various stages involved in DNA procedure and observed:
“One of the lasting effects of the OJ Simpson case will likely be greater scrutiny by defence lawyers of the prosecution’s forensic DNA evidence presented in criminal cases. In the Simpson case, the defence, in essence, put the crime laboratory on trial.”
Additionally, infallibility of science cannot balance the fallible human nature. As evident from the Priyadarshini Matto murder case where the accused Santosh Kumar Singh, the son of Pondicherry Inspector General of Police, J.P. Singh was acquitted because DNA samples were fudged by the deliberate inaction of Delhi Police.
Though the golden standard of DNA evidence in administration of justice cannot be denied, the emerging juridical challenges still need to be addressed. The significant paradigms of DNA profiling are in dire need of legislative guidelines on constitutional validity for revealing the truth during investigation despite the success stories based upon the DNA evidence.