The Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation and National Investigation Agency in India are facing flak for hounding only leaders of opposition or their associates and not the wealthy members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party or their allies.
The CBI’s case against Manish Sisodia (Delhi’s deputy chief minister) has raised once more the allegation of political vendetta behind high profile targets of the agencies.
However, even when the opposition thinks that India’s anti-corruption investigative agencies are biased by picking on their colleagues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration uses the best forensic investigation techniques to ensure the guilty do not escape.
There is huge difference in handling of these cases since 2014. A first of its kind institution set up by the Modi government helped create skilled human resources to investigate cybercrimes, match DNA and fingerprints, and detect malpractices in accounting, besides unravelling financial and banking frauds.
“Forensics is nothing but actually post-mortem of evidence. It is the application of science to crime investigation. So, if any crime happens, there must be traces or evidence of the criminal in account books, bank entries, DNA, fingerprints, or social media. We can detect them scientifically.”
The story of the advancement of numerous techniques of the investigations of the big civil and criminal cases had started in Gandhinagar.
When Narendra Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister in 2009, his government established a training and education centre in forensic sciences under the Gujarat University. Helmed by India’s foremost forensic scientist Dr J.M. Vyas, it started with two courses in a forensic laboratory in Gandhinagar.
It was a low-key affair under Amit Shah, then the state home minister, to provide education in forensic sciences, which wasn’t available in the country. From that humble beginnings, the centre grew in stature.
Birth of National Forensic Sciences University
A new law in 2020 gave birth to the National Forensic Sciences University. Its 50,000 square-metre new campus in Gandhinagar boasts state-of-the-art facilities. The university’s eight schools, including the International Centre for Humanitarian Forensics and Buddha Psychological Centre, offer 65 courses; digital forensics and cybersecurity courses are in demand.
Senior government officers routinely deal with law, governance, public policy and other subjects, but they have little knowledge about forensic sciences. So the Ministry of Home Affairs has mandated the university to train police officers and prosecutors in India. The university has developed a special syllabus for police officers and also trains judges, prosecutors, bankers and auditors.
The Delhi campus in the Rohini area was expanded during the Covid crisis. After taking over the Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science, run by the Delhi Police, the university turned it into a major consulting centre with 200 teaching staff, including 80 scientists.
The forensic sciences university has been attracting the best Indian talent since 2020. Experts from the Indian Armed Forces and Indians in Germany and the United States have joined the university. More than 100 experts have visited the university to interact with the students and staff. Some of the students are sent abroad for advanced training.
The university has been acquiring technologies to help investigative agencies in India. Staff at the ED or CBI are trained on technologies imported from western countries by the university staff. Although there are seven central forensic laboratories, 36 state laboratories and 85 regional laboratories, none has the facilities and technologies available at the university’s Delhi and Gujarat campuses.
The Delhi campus director Dr S.O. Junare says that under the stewardship of Vice-Chancellor Dr Vyas, the campus has developed into an international hub for forensic sciences.
Dr Junare says, “Forensics is nothing but actually post-mortem of evidence. It is the application of science to crime investigation. So, if any crime happens, there must be traces or evidence of the criminal in account books, bank entries, DNA, fingerprints, or social media. We can detect them scientifically.”
There is a drone forensics department to investigate crimes committed with the help of drones. “Just give us the chip of the drone, and we can tell you everything about its origin, its path, what it carried, and its weight,” Dr Junare says.
International cooperation to fight cybercrimes
A medical forensic section helps doctors and police officers to unravel medico-legal cases, using evidence obtained from the criminal and the victim. “Similarly, we have forensics for pharmacy-related crimes, like counterfeit medicines. New technologies are used to detect GST-related crimes, evasion of taxes or financial crimes,” Dr Junare adds.
Although investigating agencies can handle forensics, complicated cases are outsourced to the university labs for deeper analysis. Some complex DNA testing for other countries is also carried out in Delhi.
There are cooperation and collaboration arrangements with several countries. Officers from Middle Eastern countries are trained to tackle cybercrimes, while many African nations seek help in forensic investigations. Personnel from more than 70 countries have visited the university for guidance and training. Experts from the US, the UK, Germany and Israel also help Indian investigators solve crimes.
Federal and state entities regularly seek the university’s help in analysing balance sheets of fraudulent companies, DNA matching, and drug analysis, among other work. Dr Junare says, “Certain kind of work is challenging, like extracting data from a burnt CD or a mobile thrown in water; to obtain DNA from a charred body or a burnt bones.”
All complex narcotic cases are channelled to the university labs since it stores data on all designer drugs in circulation worldwide. Experts at the university can detect criminals’ pattern of behaviour from their presence on WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media.
The forensic sciences university has some brilliant minds in its faculty. The Supreme Court appointed Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, dean of the Gandhinagar campus and an expert in cybersecurity and digital forensics, to the committee to examine allegations that the government used spyware Pegasus.
With the help of cutting-edge technology and proper scientific analysis of crimes, the university is helping people get justice, Dr Junare says. “Forensic science is integral to a justice delivery system,” he adds.