Author: Mayukha Kommoju, Student at Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University 

ABSTRACT: In our society, crime has become an everyday part. Various steps are taken by respective authorities to curb its rise. Forensic science emerges as a crucial tool in crime detection, aiding investigations significantly. Forensic science is divided into various categories such as forensic medicine, ballistics, and fingerprint analysis, meticulously examining physical evidence collected from crime scenes. Their reports assist courts in determining justice. Despite the diversity of forensic categories, all tests are conducted in specialized laboratories. Forensic experts meticulously collect and preserve materials from crime scenes, employing specific techniques. Proper categorization of these materials aids in unravelling the factors like insufficient expertise or external influence. This article, Admissibility of Forensic Evidence in Courts, explores the various factors that impact the admissibility of forensic evidence in legal proceedings.

In India, there has been a recent push by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India to mandatorily use forensic techniques for all crimes where punishment is more than 6 years. To increase the rate of conviction, forensic techniques must be integrated into the criminal justice system. Delhi Police in its Standard Order No. Crime/31/2022 has laid down guidelines for compulsory forensic investigation.

Both the prosecution and the defense use scientific evidence, sometimes known as “forensic” evidence, extensively in the criminal justice system. Oral and documentary evidence are both included in the definition of “evidence” given in Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872. Generally speaking, scientific evidence is the outcome of research done in order to support or refute a theory or hypothesis. Scientific evidence is utilized in criminal proceedings to aid judges in comprehending and determining the case’s facts. A variety of scientific evidence, all relevant to the finder of fact, are used in criminal cases. These include polygraphs, brain mapping and lie detection, DNA evidence, fingerprints, voice identification, bullet striations (markings), gunshot residue, hair and skin evidence, tire prints, and autopsy reports. In legal terms, scientific evidence is regarded as opinion evidence, meaning that it is evidence that a witness presents in court that supports their beliefs about the case’s facts. 

The Indian judicial system is built on the principle “Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat” which means a person is innocent unless proven guilty. In addition, our legal system promises to safeguard an innocent person even if the lives of a hundred offenders are on the line. 

“Forensic evidence refers to anything collected at a crime scene that tells the story of how the crime was committed.” Additionally, it can support the accounts provided by eyewitnesses. Nevertheless, forensic evidence need not necessarily be limited to the scene of the crime; it can also be connected to any scientific evidence required to resolve a legal issue.

Forensic evidence is crucial in cases where a court is considering a challenge. With the development of technology, they have now emerged as a crucial component of our criminal justice system and are helping courts handle increasingly complicated cases.

Science and technology have long been used to detect things and conduct investigations; evidence of this can be found in Kautilya’s Arthashastra. The Indians had long since known that handprints were strange and that uneducated people in India used them as signatures before it was scientifically demonstrated that fingerprints could be used to identify invaders. It was perceived by some as a ritual. For this reason, the first Chemical Examiner’s Laboratory was established in 1849 by the Department of Health at the Madras Presidency. These laboratories were established to handle toxicological analysis of viscera, biological analysis of blood, semen, etc. stains, and chemical analysis of food, drugs, and various excisable materials in order to support the criminal justice delivery system scientifically within their limited resources. These laboratories also supplied the neighboring States and Union Territories with analytical resources. In 1957, the first Central Forensic Science Laboratory was founded in Calcutta, two years after the prestigious detective training school CDTS, Calcutta, was created.

With ever evolving legislature of the country, gathering of evidence through forensic reporting has gained significant momentum, along with the obvious success of the procedure. Indian judiciary has interpreted Section 45 of Indian Evidence Act into the ambit of accepting the forensic reports of an expert over cases such as of DNA profiling or fingerprint analysis etc. Origin of legislation for Forensic science can be traced back to Constitution of India, which provides for Article 51A(h) and (j). 

Even though Constitution of India, providing the frame work of forensic sciences’ there still lacks a comprehensive legislation for purpose of regulating and mainstreaming forensic science in today’s criminal justice system. Despite the lack of specific legislation, sections 53 and 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provide for the scope of forensic science by examining the accused by medical practitioners, who can then check for DNA or fingerprints etc.

The admissibility of forensic evidence in Indian courts has gained momentum alongside legislative developments. Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, of 1872 allows forensic reports to be admitted as expert opinions. Despite the absence of comprehensive legislation regulating forensic science, provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), such as Sections 53 and 54, enable the examination of accused individuals and the collection of forensic evidence by medical practitioners. The amendment to CrPC in 2005 introduced Section 53A, mandating the medical examination of individuals accused of sexual offenses, including DNA profiling. However, the implementation and constitutionality of these provisions have been subject to debate and judicial interpretation. The launch of Criminal Procedure (Identification) Rules, 2022, permits the collection and storage of measurements and samples from accused individuals, raising concerns about privacy rights. The admissibility of forensic reports is crucial for ensuring justice, with courts relying on expert opinions to evaluate evidence. However, the reliability and collection of forensic evidence remain contentious issues due to the lack of centralized legislation and varying judicial opinions.

In a case, the Supreme court showed a reluctant attitude in application of DNA test in order to settle a paternity issue arising out of payment of maintenance under section 125 of CrPC, where father disputed against paying the maintenance and demanded DNA testing of a group, in order to get out of paying the amount. The court decided that, where the purpose of the application was nothing more than to avoid payment of maintenance, without making out any ground whatever to have recourse to the test, the application for blood test couldn’t be accepted.

In another case presented before Orrisa High court, the court stated that before issuing any direction for collection of blood samples from accused for DNA test purposes, should be to balance the public interest as well protect the right available to arrested person under article 20(3) and 21 of the constitution.

In order to provide justice to the accused in a more precise and open way, forensic evidence is essential. In a predetermined amount of time, the court can reach a better decision with the help of this evidence. The court finds it challenging to assess scientific evidence when it comes from forensics since the evidence is constantly evolving with the times. Only after thoroughly assessing each item of evidence during the trial will the court consider it. The admission of evidence is a complicated issue in our nation. 

The accuracy, reliability, and relevancy of forensic evidence are the three fundamental factors that determine its admissibility. The evidence must meet these fundamental requirements for it to be admitted in a court of law. The court found it challenging to assess the scientific data because it is constantly evolving with the times. Only the evidence that has undergone a thorough evaluation of its validity throughout the trial will be taken into consideration by the court. A fundamental issue pertaining to the admissibility of forensic evidence in court is that the Indian Evidence Act makes no reference of the necessary circumstances that must be met by the court in order to consider forensic evidence. The only thing which the act mentions is in its section 45, which states that evidence provided by someone who becomes an expert in a particular field shall be deemed significant by the law.

On the similar note, section 51 of the Evidence Act says that evidence will become relevant if it is issued by an expert in the subject. Other than this, none rule has been established by the legislature to address the admissibility of an forensic evidence and to check its reliability. 

Assessing the accuracy and reliability of forensic evidence can pose challenges for judges and lawyers due to their limited understanding of scientific complexities. Courts rely on expert opinions rather than specific guidelines to determine the admissibility of forensic evidence.

‘Rules Regarding Admissibility of Scientific Evidence: The major issues in relation to admissibility of scientific evidence are: 

  1. Whether the subject matter of the expert’s opinion is appropriate to the case; 
  2. Whether the expert is sufficiently qualified to render the opinion; 
  3. The type of information on which the expert bases his opinion; 
  4. The role of general consensus in the scientific community in evaluating the admissibility of expert testimony; and 
  5. Limitations other than the above pertaining to the type of opinion an expert can express.’

In our country, rules governing the admissibility of scientific evidence are limited, primarily outlined in Sections 45 and 46 of the Indian Evidence Act. However, other countries, such as the US, have deliberated on this issue. The Frye Standard, or The Frye Test, was a significant ruling in America regarding the admissibility of scientific evidence. It pertained to a precursor to the polygraph, measuring changes in systolic blood pressure to detect deception. Despite its contribution to legal acceptance of scientific evidence, it faced criticism for potentially hindering admissibility due to lack of community acceptance and recent development. ’The United States Supreme Court first addressed the reliability requirement for experts in the landmark case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 509 U.S. 579 (1993).’

In the case of ‘Gautam Kundu v. State of West Bengal it has been laid down that courts in India cannot order blood test as a matter of course and such prayers cannot be granted to have a roving inquiry; there must be strong prima facie case and the court must carefully examine as to what would be the consequence of ordering the blood test.’

The court stated in ‘Amarjit Kaur v. Har Bhajan Singh that section 112 of the Evidence Act was enacted at a time when modern scientific developments with deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) tests were not done. A true DNA test is believed to be scientifically reliable. Even yet, it is not enough to avoid the conclusiveness of the legal presumption regarding the legitimacy of the child. For example, under Section 112 of the Act, if a husband and wife were living together at the time of conception but a DNA test indicated that the child was not born to the husband, the conclusiveness in law would be irrebutable.’

In the case of ‘State of Madhya Pradesh v. Dharkole @ Govind Singh, it was held that if there is a contradiction between eye evidence and medical evidence, the court must choose the evidence that inspires the more trust. When medical evidence and ocular evidence contradict each other, medical evidence does not take precedence.’

Another important issue under consideration is ‘whether the Courts are bound by the opinion given by an expert on a particular fact in a case. Hon’ble Supreme Court has answered this question in Malay Kumar Ganguly v. Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, wherein it has been held that, a Court is not bound by the evidence of the experts which is to a large extent advisory in nature.’

The criminal justice system relies heavily on forensic science. It essentially entails delving into the scientific and physical evidence gathered at the crime site. Forensic science describes the character of the suspect who committed the crime. The evidence plainly demonstrates the nature of the crime committed. Even the timing of the incident is included in the circumstantial evidence. The forensic evidence points to the scene of the crime. Even the offender’s process is followed by the forensic investigation. 

And the motive of the crime is found. The functions and responsibilities of a forensic scientist in a criminal case are critical, as they entail thoroughly analyzing the evidence and ensuring that it is not falsified. Forensic pathologists, for example, are experts in performing autopsies to identify the cause of death. By analysing bodily fluids and tissues, an autopsy can help determine the cause and manner of death. To identify suspects, forensic experts examine physical evidence obtained from the crime site in terms of fingerprint etc. Forensic professionals also employ image modification tools to look for long-term offenders who have gotten away from the police. This technology enables them to digitally age a photograph and comprehend how an elderly person would feel.

Forensic evidence, crucial in the criminal justice system, aids courts but poses challenges in interpretation and reliability. Despite scholars focusing solely on outcomes due to data constraints, studies unanimously highlight its pivotal role. Forensic evidence ensures accuracy and transparency, directly linking accused to victims. Victims increasingly demand its use for its transparent and accurate results, highlighting its importance in legal proceedings.


Q. Which type of evidence is not admissible?

Inadmissible evidence is evidence that lawyers can’t present to a jury. Forms of evidence judges consider inadmissible include hearsay, prejudicial, improperly obtained, or irrelevant items.

Q. Why is forensic evidence important in the Evidence Act?

It provides a level of certainty and accuracy that other forms of evidence cannot match.

Q. What is the role of forensic evidence in criminal justice?

In India, forensic evidence is essential to the criminal justice system. It offers an impartial and scientific foundation for determining a suspect’s guilt or innocence, locating criminals, and establishing the case’s facts.

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