MTR: Royal Bhutan Police and the agencies dealing with forensic investigations have their best chance to push for the long-awaited integrated forensic lab in the country.

During the home ministry’s 11th Plan midterm review on February 26, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay asked the police to submit a proposal to the Cabinet immediately. He said the government would seek donor funds or allocate from internal sources to set up the lab.

“If it’s needed, then it’s time we decide on it,” said Prime Minister.

Officials from numerous agencies at a high-level meeting last September said there is an urgent need to establish a one-stop crisis centre (OSCC) that would provide all services such as medical treatment, forensic investigation and advocacy from one place to victims.

Colonel Thinley Dukla said the lack of forensic laboratory in the country hindered swift delivery of justice. “While we’re given 108 days to report to the court with test results, we can’t submit them.”

Health officials said the absence of such facilities could lead to miscarriage of justice.

The forensic and toxicology unit in the referral hospital does not have autopsy facilities with histopathology lab, toxicology laboratory, forensic DNA facility, forensic radiology and forensic odontology necessary to deliver reliable.

National referral hospital’s Forensic Medicine Unit even in death investigation can only do mere external examination while sexual assault examination is done without DNA analysis, and disputed paternity testing is sent to Sri Lanka.

It takes at least two to three months for DNA test results to come from Sri Lanka. Each sample testing costs at least USD 40 excluding postal charges.

The idea to establish such a centre is not new. The annual police conference in 2005 and a judicial workshop in Gedu in 2008 recommended establishing such a centre.

Domestic Violence Prevention Act and Child Care and Protection Act too mandates for establishing such a centre.

The Domestic Violence Prevention Act 2013 mandates the health ministry to establish an OSCC.

Section 35 of the act states: “Health ministry shall establish a One Stop Crises Centre which shall facilitate the victims in receiving the medical treatment and maintain records of treatment of victim.”

Section 238 of the Child Care and Protection Act says: “In order to facilitate expeditious processing of offences against and to safeguard the best interest of the child, the government shall establish a one stop crisis centre in every major government hospital staffed by a police official, psychiatrist, social worker and a legal counsel.”

Tshering Palden