Forensic science plays a pivotal role in the criminal justice system worldwide, and India is no exception. This multidisciplinary field applies scientific principles to aid legal investigations, ensuring that evidence presented in court is credible and reliable. In India, the integration of forensic science in criminal investigations has grown significantly over the years, bolstered by various laws and judicial precedents. This article delves into the role of forensic science in India’s criminal justice system, exploring its applications, legal frameworks, challenges, and future prospects.

Historical Context and Development

The use of forensic science in India can be traced back to the early 20th century. The establishment of the first forensic laboratory in Kolkata in 1952 marked a significant milestone. Since then, forensic science has evolved, incorporating advanced technologies and methodologies to enhance investigative processes. The Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), under the Directorate of Forensic Science Services (DFSS), plays a central role in the country’s forensic investigations, supported by state forensic laboratories and specialized units.

Legal Framework Governing Forensic Science in India

Several laws and regulations in India underscore the importance of forensic science in criminal investigations. Key legislation includes:

1. Indian Evidence Act, 1872: Sections 45 to 51 of the Indian Evidence Act are crucial for forensic science as they deal with expert opinions. According to Section 45, the court may seek opinions from experts in science, art, or foreign law, particularly in matters requiring specialized knowledge. This provision forms the basis for the admissibility of forensic evidence in Indian courts.

2. Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973: The CrPC outlines procedures for the collection and handling of forensic evidence. Section 293 allows the court to rely on reports from government scientific experts without necessarily summoning them to testify, thus streamlining the judicial process.

3. Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920: This act permits the collection of photographs, fingerprints, and other identifying data from convicts and certain categories of arrestees, facilitating forensic investigations.

4. Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985: This act mandates forensic analysis of seized substances to confirm their identity and composition, essential for prosecuting drug-related offenses.

Applications of Forensic Science in Criminal Investigations

Forensic science encompasses a broad spectrum of disciplines, each contributing uniquely to criminal investigations. Key applications include:

1. DNA Analysis: DNA profiling is a cornerstone of forensic science, used to identify suspects, exonerate the innocent, and establish biological relationships. The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019, aims to regulate the use of DNA technology in criminal investigations and civil disputes, ensuring ethical standards and protecting individual privacy.

2. Fingerprint Analysis: Fingerprinting remains a fundamental forensic technique for identifying individuals based on unique ridge patterns. Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS) enhance the accuracy and efficiency of matching fingerprints against databases.

3. Forensic Toxicology: This branch deals with the detection and analysis of drugs, alcohol, poisons, and other toxic substances in biological samples. It is vital for investigating cases of poisoning, drug overdose, and impaired driving.

4. Ballistics: Forensic ballistics involves the examination of firearms, ammunition, and ballistic trajectories to link weapons to crime scenes and determine the circumstances of shootings.

5. Digital Forensics: With the rise of cybercrime, digital forensics has become increasingly important. This field focuses on recovering and analyzing data from electronic devices to uncover evidence of criminal activity.

6. Forensic Odontology: Dental evidence can be crucial in identifying human remains and assessing bite marks. Forensic odontologists apply their expertise in cases involving mass disasters, assaults, and homicides.

7. Forensic Anthropology: This discipline involves the study of human skeletal remains to determine identity, cause of death, and other forensic details. It is particularly useful in cases of mass graves, war crimes, and historical investigations.

Fundamental Principles of Forensic Science

In the identification and investigation of crimes, forensic evidence is crucial. However, the scientific evidence that the criminal justice system relies on is founded on a number of reliable principles, making it pertinent and admissible in court. The following are a few principles which add value to the role of forensics in the legal system:

1) Principles of Analysis: For effective use of scientific evidence in trials, emphasis is to be laid on correct sampling and packaging procedures.

2) Principles of Comparison: Only those things which are similar in nature can be compared. This principle stresses the need of providing similar samples or specimens for the purpose of comparison.
3) Individuality: Every object, natural in nature has an individuality. Neither nature duplicates it nor the man. For example- fingerprints.
4) Law of Progressive change: Change in everything takes place with the passage of time. The crime scene, physical evidence, and criminal involvement in the crime undergo change as time passes by.
5) Locard’s Principal: Whenever two identities come in contact, there is an exchange of traces mutually. This is known as Locard’s exchange principle.

6) Law of Probability: It determines the change of occurrence of a particular event in a particular way out of a number of ways in which the event cant place or fail to take place with equal facility.

When scientific evidence is obtained and assessed, police officers (investigating officers) are often around three times more likely to resolve cases. If the forensic evidence strongly links the accused person to the commission of the crime, prosecutors could not agree to initiate discussions. We may therefore evaluate the necessity and significance of forensic evidence in our legal system by using it at various levels of inquiry and trial.
Judicial Precedents and Case Studies

Several landmark cases in India have highlighted the significance of forensic science in achieving justice:

  1. Susheel Mandal v. State, HCP.No.801/2014

The Petitioner who had contested the DNA results, in this case, was the father of a deceased boy. The deceased youngster died just as he and a schoolgirl were beginning to develop romantic feelings for one another. One day the youngster was reported missing and a week later a completely decayed and hence unrecognizably dead body was discovered in a lake. The body was not recognised by the petitioner, and neither were the garments necessary to prove that the man was his own son. In a habeas corpus petition, he claimed to be the girl’s father and asked the High Court to order the Central Bureau of Inquiry (CBI) to conduct the inquiry. Post conduct of the DNA Test, the deceased person’s DNA matched with the petitioner and his wife. The apex court relied on the scientific tests that were conducted and hence the matter got closed.

2.Magan Bihari Lal v. State of Punjab, 1977 AIR 1091
It is a well-known case where the Supreme Court overturned the conviction based on the experts’ identification of the handwriting. The Supreme Court ruled that one should proceed cautiously when considering an expert’s advice.

  1. Jessica Lal Murder Case (1999)

The use of ballistic evidence and forensic reconstruction of the crime scene was instrumental in securing the conviction of the perpetrator, highlighting the impact of forensic science in high-profile cases.

  1. Aarushi Talwar Case (2008)

The double murder of Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj Banjade saw extensive use of forensic techniques, including DNA profiling, narco-analysis, and fingerprinting. Despite controversies, the case underscored the importance of meticulous forensic investigation.

  1. Nirbhaya Case (2012)

The brutal gang rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi led to widespread outrage and legal reforms. Forensic evidence, including DNA analysis and medical examinations, played a critical role in securing convictions.

Challenges and Limitations

Despite its critical role, forensic science in India faces several challenges:

1. Infrastructure and Resources: Many forensic laboratories suffer from inadequate infrastructure, outdated equipment, and insufficient funding. This hampers the efficiency and accuracy of forensic analyses.

2. Training and Expertise: There is a shortage of trained forensic experts in India. Continuous professional development and specialized training programs are essential to bridge this gap.

3. Backlog of Cases: Overburdened forensic laboratories often struggle with a backlog of cases, leading to delays in investigations and trials. Streamlining processes and increasing workforce capacity are crucial to addressing this issue.

4. Quality Assurance: Ensuring the quality and reliability of forensic evidence is paramount. Standardized protocols, accreditation of laboratories, and regular audits are necessary to maintain high standards.

5. Legal and Ethical Concerns: The use of forensic evidence must be balanced with respect for individual rights and privacy. Regulatory frameworks, such as the proposed DNA bill, aim to address these concerns, but effective implementation is key.


Using Forensic Science to gather evidence is primarily important for ensuring that justice is done fairly. This is done so that the guilty party, not the innocent one, should be punished for the actual offence. In numerous instances, forensic evidence has been useful in locating the true offender, who is then punished by the court. More valuable than other court-produced evidence is forensic evidence.

Nevertheless, there are occasionally—and very infrequently—some defects in the evidence. More specialists should be honoured since they consistently provide knowledge and pertinent evidence about the issue, which enables the case to be resolved on that foundation. . By expanding forensic science, the nation can see more growth. This could establish rigid guidelines for punishing the accused.

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