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Himachal Pradesh enhances forensic labs with advanced DNA testing facilities

First FSL in India to upgrade and equip all labs with new DNA analysis technology
The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Himachal Pradesh is all set to make new DNA technology upgrades to its State and Range Forensic Science Laboratories (RFSLs) that will increase the number of cases being analyzed. The FSL in Junga is claimed to be the first in the country to initiate well-equipped DNA facilities in all its labs across the state. The aim here is to accelerate the DNA profiling process that will lead to quicker investigation and trial, thus fast-tracking the criminal justice system.

According to a 3-year data shared by the Himachal Pradesh State FSL, sexual assault/rape makes up for 44% of the total cases received for DNA profiling. An unfortunate number of 900 cases are still pending for DNA analysis and 14% of this number are samples from victims of sexual assault. These new DNA technology upgrades will essentially bring down the number of unsolved sexual assault crimes in the state.

Addressing a media briefing in Shimla, Dr. Arun Sharma, Director, State Forensic Science Laboratory, Himachal Pradesh said, “In light of the state of heinous crimes in Himachal Pradesh, we are already working on upgrading our systems. To start with, we have invested over INR 1.50 Crore on a new 24 Capillary DNA Sequencer that will replace the older four-capillary sequencer; INR 30 Lakhs on a Robotic DNA Extraction System that enhances the quantity and quality of DNA extraction; and INR 1.25 Crore on purchasing automated DNA sequencers for our Range FSLs. Additionally, the lab has a training plan in consonance with ISO: 17025 standard and the same is being implemented effectively. We have already recruited 3 trained DNA experts and are in the process of training 2 more along with 4 new support staff.”

Highlighting his thoughts on the new DNA facility upgrades, Tim Schellberg, Founder & President, Gordon Thomas Honeywell—Governmental Affairs (GTH-GA) said, “Himachal Pradesh has taken a great step forward by upgrading its forensic facilities. This amazing initiative is in the right direction, aiding to facilitate more DNA casework, and create more DNA yield in a really short span of time, thus reducing backlogs and pendency in cases of heinous crimes. This successfully creates a strong premise towards DNA databasing in India.”

Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs is globally recognized public affairs consultancy firm that has expertise with forensic DNA database policy, legislative, and law.GTH-GA collaborates closely with governmental officials, crime labs, police and the DNA industry. GTH-GA operates the website that has been used as the world’s primary source for DNA database policy and legislative information since 2000.

The Indian Government has already taken numerous steps towards initiating a successful databasing system and using DNA evidence to solve crime. The ‘Human DNA Profiling Bill’ has already been introduced in the Parliament and is all expected to be discussed in the Winter Session. Maneka Gandhi, Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development has already written to the Chief Minister of every state to seek funding for their forensic facilities through the Nirbhaya Fund.

Furthermore, The Ministry of Home Affairs has released a set of guidelines/Standard Operating Procedures on how to collect, preserve and transport crime scene DNA. These guidelines have been adapted from International processes and customized to suit the Indian laws and regulations. A much-needed initiative, these guidelines enable the law enforcement to do their job more effectively, leading to a decrease in contaminated DNA being sent to the FSLs, thus resulting in a valuable DNA sample that can enable successful investigation and trial.