ISSN : 2581-8465

Auhtor: Ms. Preeti, Research Scholar



Forensic Science is the application of science to criminal and civil laws (majorly during criminal investigations) as governed by the legal standards of admissible evidence and criminal procedure (specific to region). Scientists in this field collect, preserve, and analyze evidence that could help discern the truth from the given facts and materials of any case. Forensic scientists are also required to appear as expert witnesses when their findings are pivotal to making or breaking a case.

When discussing the application of forensic sciences to a case, the most important person would be the investigating officer. He/she will be the person in charge of collecting, examining and utilizing all forensic material in relation to a case. Should the officer not be competent enough to handle the material and observe the minute details in which the story usually lies, the findings of a forensic scientist would render useless.

This article will take a look at the history and development of this field of science and the rapidly changing effects it has on criminal investigations in our country.


In the olden days, most cases were solved based on the testimonies of key witnesses or relevant persons to a case. Their words were assumed to be the truth even though most statements were false, made either from a desire to evade the law or out of force.

The first occurrences of using medicine or science to prove facts was found in Asia – the books “Xi Yuan Lu” & “GunhegaranchaKardankal” which was authored by Dr. VasudhaApte – providing us with information of about 130 different methods of forensic investigation.[1] During this time (around 1248), forensic science was mostly about how one was to understand a dead body (autopsy). Reading marks, wounds, other signs on a corpse, being able to determine the time of death based on the lividity of the body, techniques on how to preserve a body for further re-examination at a later date; are all skills that were learned by forensic scientists.[2]

The 19th century is where we saw major development in the science as a field of study in its own right. The pioneer – Antoine Louis – worked on figuring out more techniques to ascertain the cause of death, as well as to distinguish between a murder and a suicide.  We then move on to the development of the science behind toxicology– MatieuOrfila, a Spanish chemistry teacher in France was the first one to theorize the detection of poisons and other chemicals that are not natural to the body; he is known as the Father of Toxicology. Then the use of photography became widespread and found its way into becoming a part of forensic science around the mid 1800s. By the 1850s, both French and American law enforcement had started to develop a database of criminals using the concept of mugshots. Consequential to the idea of building a database that could help identify criminals, European prisons began instructing their wardens to keep a record of the physical measurements of all prisoners – dimensions of their heads, feet, hands, ears, etc.. – to help identify them more easily. Towards the end of this century is when the study of fingerprints and their uniqueness gained popularity. In 1892, Francis Galton came out with the first method of analyzing fingerprints, which in its essence is still applicable today.

Moving onto the beginning of the 20th century we can see the scope of Forensics further expanding – the classification of blood cells for easier identification of bodies and matching of forensic materials/evidence; the birth of “Locard’s Exchange Principle”[3]; the development of handwriting analysis and the study of ballistics; using the field of biochemistry to solve forensic questions; and the creation of a tool that utilizes laser technology to locate residual fingerprints. We can see that end of this century is when the field of DNA research cropped up. The English researcher Alec Jeffreys was the one who discovered that each person has unique DNA, meaning that someone’s DNA can be used – much like a fingerprint – to identify a person.[4] The list of materials from which we can obtain one’s DNA is endless – even a piece of dead skin can be used to identify a person; plus, the number of DNA databases that we have developed over the past century has made identifying a person (using DNA) as easy as sending a text.

As we said earlier, all forensic techniques were borrowed from various scientific disciplines like bio-chemistry, medicine, anatomy, physics, photography, etc. But in the past few years Forensic Science has become a discipline on its own; developing branches which are exclusive to its study. This century has seen significant advances inserology, voice analysis, odor analysis, and in studies relating to nose prints and ear patterns. The most significant advancement would be that forensic scientists now have as far of a reach in the digital realm that they would have in the physical realm. Digital Forensics has come a long way in terms of generating databases with recorded, indefinable IP addresses; and other techniques to track and follow digital footprints.

From a bird eye’s view, we can say that the field of Forensic Science is dedicated to answering questions like whether a crime has been committed or not, how and when the crime (if committed) occurred, and who committed said crime.[5] Techniques used to find answers to these questions are all based on some fundamental principles – The Law of Individuality[6], Principle of Exchange[7], Law of Progressive Change[8], Principle of Comparison, Supremacy of Facts, etc.

Forensic Scientists are trained to pay attention to the detail, find ways to listen to what the evidence has to say, and never rely on anything that cannot be backed with proof – they’re probably scarier than lawyers. To sum things up – gone are the days when criminals escaped justice by splashing some bleach around; and in are the days when sneezing or shedding some hair, can earn you a one-way ticket to jail or save you from being falsely accused for something you didn’t do.


Types of Evidence:

Forensic scientists typically work as generalists, which means that they need experience in operating with a good type of evidence varieties. However, several conjointly specialise in the employment of certain techniques and tools. Differing types of evidence need completely different skills and instrumentation. Kinds of evidence that are most often analyzed throughout investigations include: trace evidence and biological and flight evidence.

i) Biological Evidence:

In examining biological proof, rhetorical scientists use tools each at the scene, and within the research laboratory. Once a rhetorical somebody arrives at against the law scene, he could hunt for human remains, blood or alternative bodily fluids and collect samples of any that are found. as a result of not all bodily fluids (particularly people who are cleansed up after) are visible to the optic, the somebody will use the chemical Luminol to point out latent traces of blood. Wherever giant quantities of blood are gift, an expert in blood spatter analysis will examine the patterns and size of the bloody areas to work out data like the mechanical phenomenon of the blood. This knowledge will facilitate an investigator deduce what form of weapon was used, or wherever the culprit and victim were standing throughout the attack.

ii) DNA Evidence:

DNA proof uses the distinctive genetic markers that establish people to work out whether or not an individual was at a scene, or to spot a bit of property as happiness to a particular person. so as to spot associate degree individual’s deoxyribonucleic acid it should be extracted from a bit of property that an individual has had contact with, and has left a humor like cum, blood or spit on.  Somebody performs tests that establish genetic markers and build a profile that’s distinctive thereto person, and may be compared to a sample taken from somebody. Scientists may additionally try to get enough blood from proof to conduct materiamedica testing, to work out the presence of alcohol, drugs, poisons or chemicals.

iii) Trace Evidence:

Trace proof is found wherever 2 objects have created contact with one another. Once an individual or associate degree object touches another object, some ‘trace’ of the 2 are going to be changed. This can be the idea behind the analysis of fingerprints, tire and footprints, and fiber analysis. Technicians raise fingerprints from surfaces by dusting the world with a powder that sticks to the oils within the fingerprint. She then employs fingerprint lifting tape to require the print from the surface to the research laboratory, wherever it will be analyzed. Within the case of a footprint, tire track or alternative pattern that was left in an outside space, a rhetorical somebody will fill within the depression with plaster, which might be removed once it sets up. The casting is taken to a research laboratory wherever it’s keep till required, or compared against an acknowledged sample, like a suspect’s shoe.

iv) Ballistics:

Some rhetorical scientists specialize in the sector of ballistics testing. Ballistics could be a science that involves the science of the flight path that a bullet takes because it travels to its target. Trained ballistics specialists will collect an amazing quantity of knowledge concerning the kind of weapon that was used, the trail of the bullet and a lot of through the examination of the bullet itself. Guns turn out a particular pattern of damage and grooves on bullets as they’re laid-off, and this pattern is exclusive. By examining the bullets and test-firing weapons, associate degree investigator will often times either establish the kind of piece that was used, wherever it absolutely was laid-off from, or maybe match the bullet with a particular weapon.


India is a country that has gone through drastic social changes at a very rapid pace. Within the matter of one hundred years, the nation has gone from being ruled by the British, an era when the police were feared and there were no laws to protect the rights of the people, to a growing urban society, where the fear for the law and the officers that enforce is fading. Along with these changes, access to resources like guns, bombs, drugs, passports and knowledge (blueprints, schematics, etc.) has become more widespread and difficult to regulate.

We have several laws in this country that enforce protocols[9] before any forensic evidence can be deemed admissible, to ensure the authenticity of everything brought before the courts.

Article 20(3) of our constitution gives every citizen the right to not be a witness against himself (should he/she find himself being accused of a crime). However, this law does not allow people to shield their identity – section 73 of the Indian Evidence Act grants the court the authority to demand submission of finger impressions at any time, regardless of the safeguards provided by the article.[10] Article 20(3) however does protect against the use of brain mapping and polygraph tests. In the 2010 case of Selvi&Ors. v. State of Karnataka and Anr.  the supreme court questioned the validity of the involuntary administration of certain scientific techniques (lie-detector tests, truth serum, narco-analysis, etc.) for investigative purposes. It was in this case that such tests were deemed to be inconclusive and thus their usage (if not court ordered) in a criminal investigation would be void.

Later in 2005, the Code of Criminal Procedure was amended, allowing officers to record basic medical details from accused persons upon their arrest. Section 53 of the CrPC even allows for subjecting the accused to a medical examination if there is reason to believe such an exam would further the investigation along. However, the provisions in this Amendment are limited to rape cases only.Similarly, Section 164A of the code provides for the medical examination of a woman who has allegedly been raped (within a 24 hour period). Both sections mentioned allow any appropriately licensed member of the Indian Medical Council to collect DNA and other forensic evidence during the medical exam.

Here is where a huge problem lies – collection of DNA (or any forensic material for that matter) is a tedious process – if the medical practitioner that is collecting the DNA makes even a small error or is unaware of the intricacies of the process, the sample could get contaminated, making it useless in court.This would mean that DNA evidence along with many other types of forensic evidence could be considered as inconclusive due to the difficult nature of the collection process as well as the high level of caution and care that must be taken while storing such material.

Which is probably the main reason why the Evidence Actcategorizes a forensic report as an “opinion tendered by an expert”. Even though the credibility of the expert can be proved through many certifications and his findings can be put under review/scrutiny, the court still has the freedom to disagree with the conclusions drawn from the expert’s interpretation of the evidence. In 2007, it was suggested by the National Draft Policy on Criminal Justice Reforms that the Evidence Act should be amended to make scientific evidence admissible as ‘substantive evidence’ rather than ‘opinion evidence (factoring in the sophistication of the concerned scientific discipline).[11]

Of course, making such a change is much easier said than done. There are still hundreds of technical gaps that could lead to the inadmissibility of scientific evidence into a court room. Mismanagement of the evidence, improper collection, preservation, omission of key evidence, breaking the chain of custody are just some of the many concerns that could place doubt on the authenticity of evidence produced.

There are two main underlying concerns that are the cause for the status of forensic evidence in Indian courts – the lack of independence of forensic labs and their self-regulation; lack of training in modern investigative techniques among our police force.

Solving the first problem is a much larger issue and solutions for the same do not fall within the scope of discussion of this article. The second problem, on the other hand, can be combatted only by investing more resources in training our police officers, by directing the legislature to create new laws that will regulate the collection, storage and analysis of forensic material, and by creating strict standards and protocols to be followed by forensic laboratories affiliated with criminal investigations.


There have been many occurrences where forensic evidence was used to convict an accused. However, the Indian criminal justice system’s main aim is to provide fair justice; and therefore, cannot deliver a judgment based on evidence that does not fully comply with the high standards of authenticity demanded. Several commissions that were created for the purpose of reforming the justice system have harped on the importance of using technology in crime detection and have repeatedly said that science and technology can help the system function more efficiently.

While Forensic Science progresses independently as a field of study, it is imperative that the laws that incorporate forensics into the justice system are updated appropriately as well. As of today, India is en-route to becoming a country with outdated investigation methods; the only reason being – all modern methods haven’t found a place in the provisions of our laws. The quicker we pen these methods down and regulate their use during investigations, the quicker we will be able to reduce crime and deliver fair justice to all.

[1] Translated to Washing Away of Wrongs

[2] Note that the field had not been established in its independent capacity by this time

[3] “The principle states that whenever a criminal comes into contact with a victim, an object, or a crime scene, he or she will leave behind evidence, and will also take away evidence” –

[4]“Crime Science: Methods of Forensic Detection”– Joe Nickell and John F. Fischer

[5] Above in bold – some of the common techniques used to answer these questions.

[6] This law says that every object, whether natural or man-made, has some distinguishing feature (which normally occur due to small flaws in the materials, in the arrangement of the crystals, imperfect stamping or due to inclusions of some extraneous matter.

[7] Supra Note 3

[8] “Everything changes with the passage of time” – collection and analysis of forensic material are two processes in the investigative process that must be done promptly. With time, the factors that will lead an investigating officer to the criminal or to the solving the crime, will change form and render different results from forensic tests.

[9] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973; Indian Evidence Act, 1872; etc.

[10] Gaurav Aggarwal, Smart Study Series Forensic Medicine &Toxicology 73

[11] Report of the Committee on Draft National Policy on Criminal Justice, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, July, 2007.