Ten years on, another attempt made to establish forensic services

The health ministry will submit a budget proposal to establish forensic services in the country.

The ministry will also request the cabinet to identify a lead agency to work on the establishment of a national forensic laboratory in the country.

This, according to health officials, was an outcome of the June 21 meeting where officials from the health ministry, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), Court and home ministry discussed to strengthen the forensic services in the country.

The budget proposal on the cost of establishing forensic services in the country will be based on the budget proposal JDWNRH officials and police submit to the ministry.

While the JDWNRH is expected to establish a forensic toxicology facility by next month, since the equipment is already in the country and ready to be tested, the hospital has submitted a budget proposal of about Nu 100 million for medical equipment and human resource development.

Police officials say the required budget to procure forensic equipment would be about Nu 40M.

It was learnt that police has three officials with masters in forensic science and biotechnology but without forensic equipment, two officials are serving in other departments.

Police officials also say that while they have the required manpower to operate a forensic service, there is a need for refresher training to update on the application of various technology.

While the police have established an automated finger print system (AFIS), computer and mobile forensic, officials said that there is no manpower capacity to handle documents in question. “Our cyber crime needs to be strengthened, as all emerging cases are linked to emails and Internet,” an official said.

However, this is not the first time proposals are made to establish forensic service in the country.

The budget for the forensic laboratory facilities was approved in the 11th Plan and documents available state that the Indian government would fund the establishment of the forensic DNA analysis facility at a cost of Nu 2.5M while toxicology and histo-pathology analysis facilities will be established at a cost of Nu 2.2M and Nu 1.7M respectively.

While JDWNRH officials refused to provide details on the toxicology machines that arrived recently, Kuensel learnt that the hospital was supposed to have the facility operational by June this year.

An official involved in the establishment of forensic service, on the condition of anonymity, said that the discussion to establish forensic laboratory was going on for the last 10 years. “Every time there is a meeting, it sounds as if it is going to be established but it dies down. I am losing interest too.”

While the lack of forensic services is delaying court proceedings, as DNA samples are sent abroad, an official involved said that forensic laboratory is needed to ensure quality of justice rendered to the people.

He pointed out that with the Evidence Act and the Constitution mandating evidences to prove cases beyond reasonable doubt, having a forensic service facility can contribute a lot towards rendering justice in both civil and criminal cases. “We should not be deterred by the cost of the endeavour or number of cases but by the manner in which it can contribute towards judgment.”

Although forensic evidences are required in most crime investigations, forensic tests are sought mostly for sensitive and heinous crimes to corroborate evidences. Police, as of today, has about 19 cases awaiting forensic test results.

Since most of the DNA samples are sent to a laboratory in Kolkata, India, where they have their own pending cases, the results are delayed. One such case is of the double murder in Kuengarabten, Trongsa, where a student and his grandmother were murdered in 2015.

Tashi Dema

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