History and Development of Forensic Science in India

Forensic Science

Forensic science is the application of scientific knowledge to aid in the administration of justice. “Forensics” is derived from a Latin word “forensis” which means ‘Forum’ or ‘gathering of people’. In modern words, Forensic can be described as the legal proceedings in the court of law shaped in the form of evidence. The forensic scientist analyses and interprets the evidence for justice to the victim.

Forensic science embraces most branches of science and is applied for the purpose of the law. Forensic science comprises of the basic scientific disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology and their derived subjects such as medicine, anthropology, toxicology, serology, odontology etc. 

In addition to all these subjects, there are additional branches which have been developed exclusively for forensic applications. They are Ballistics, Fingerprints, Document examinations, Voice analysis, Psychology, Narco analysis, DNA profiling, Forensic engineering, etc. which also have got much of application with forensic sciences.

Forensic science is a scientific discipline which is direct to the recognition, identification, individualization and evaluation of physical evidence related to crimes and other complex issues and are resolved by the application of the principles of natural science for the administration of justice.

History and Development of Forensic Science

History of Forensic science dates back to the 17th century with Archimedes, who detected fraudulence of a fake golden crown through the principle of density and buoyancy. During the 19th and 20th century it became more popular with a scientific approach.

Among the lot, a person who initiated the practical aspect of the scientific or forensic application for the criminal investigation was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Through his fictitious character Sherlock Holmes, he popularized the scientific method of investigation. If you like to read more about such mystery books do look at Top murder mystery books by famous authors.

Experts in different fields of Forensic Science

As modernization was coming, different scientists made significant developments in various fields of Forensics and came to be known as the Father of those particular fields.

Mathieu Orfila (1757-1853)

Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim or ‘Paracelsus‘ is credited as the Father of Toxicology for his achievements in Toxicology in 16th century.

Mathieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila was a Spanish Toxicologist and Chemist. He studied and published a book on the effects of poisons on animals and the ways of detecting a particular poison, a work that established ‘Toxicology’ as a legitimate scientific endeavour. For his publication in Forensic Toxicology in the 19th century he is known as the Father of Modern Toxicology.

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Alphonse Bertillon (1813-1914)

He devised the scientific system of personal identification. He started to develop scientific anthropometry which is a systematic procedure of taking a series of body measurements as a means of differentiating one individual from another. This has been later replaced by the Fingerprints.

However, for his achievements of creating the Bertillon system and identifying criminals through scientific processes, he is considered as the father of criminal investigation.

Francis Galton (1822-1911)

He developed the method of classification of Fingerprints. He is responsible for the present system of identification by Fingerprints. He laid a foundation for acceptance of fingerprints as evidence in courts by publishing many articles, books, scholar articles, interviews, etc.

Later, Henry Faulds used a classification system to classify various fingerprints in police force etc, and the classification system is still in use.

Hans Gross (1847-1915)

Hans Gross was an Austrian criminologist popularly known as the Father of Criminalistics. His publication ‘Criminal investigation’ in 1893 helped to establish the forensics in terms of transferring of evidence from criminal to victim.

Edmond Locard (1847-1915)

Edmond Locard was a French criminologist. He discovered the basic principle of Forensic Science i.e., Locard’s exchange principle which states that ‘Every contact leaves a trace’.

Albert S. Osborn (1858-1915)

Albert S. Osborn is also known as the Father of questioned document examination. He made significant contributions to the field of questioned document examination. His first contribution was the book publication titled Questioned Documents” in 1910 and the second edition of the same book in 1929.

His other publications were ‘The problem of proof’ (1922), The Mind of the Juror (1937), Questioned Document Problems (1944).

Leone Lattes (1887-1954)

Dr Karl Landsteiner discovered the blood groups but Dr Leone Lattes devised a relatively simple procedure for determining blood group from a drop or from the dried bloodstain. The procedure developed by Dr Leone Lattes is still in use today. She is credited as the ‘Father of Bloodstain identification’.

Calvin Hooker Goddard (1891-1955)

He devised the technique of comparison of a fired bullet with a test bullet. It is also possible to determine if the particular weapon has been used for firing of a bullet. It would be possible to get the exact identity of the weapon and the bullet from where it was fired. He is also known as the ‘Father of Forensic Ballistics’.

Sir Alec Jeffreys (1950-present)

He is a British Geneticist and developed the DNA profiling and genetic fingerprinting technique and is used currently all over the world in Forensic Science for the purpose of the law.

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Development of Forensic science in India

In India, there was the fingerprint bureau under the State Criminal Investigation Department [C.I.D] which provided the examination of fingerprints, footprints and document analysis. Chemical tests on biological evidence were also done such as with blood and other visceral tissues.

Due to the slow process and lack of systematic development, the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) was set up by various state governments.  First such State laboratory was set up in 1952 at Calcutta which became fully functional in 1953. Central Forensic Science Laboratory and Central fingerprint bureau were established in Calcutta in 1955 and 1957.

Later with the recommendation of the central advisory committee, other Forensic Laboratories were established in Bombay, Madras, Bihar, Punjab, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

At present Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) acts as a nodal agency for the central government. In states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, and U.P regional FSL were set up. Other institutions like the department of explosives, Indian security press were also set up later.

Modern biological techniques were made available in the Centre for DNA fingerprinting and diagnostics situation in Hyderabad.  It carries out DNA profiling, diagnostics, analysis and bioinformatics.

This centre has a database for all the casework that was entrusted to them for the analysis and is the primary centre for DNA testing.

Anthropometry Bureau

This was established in Calcutta in 1892. This bureau had adopted Bertillon’s method of personal identification. This centre has got records of criminals such as photographs and other detailed descriptions of appearance.

Finger Print Bureau

William Herschel the collector of Hugli in West Bengal found that markings on the fingertips of an individual are unique and never change during their lifetime. He applied his knowledge and skill in devising a system of registration of finger and thumb impression. Edward Henry followed this principle of recording fingerprints of criminals and thereby a fingerprint bureau was established in 1897 at Calcutta.

Department of Explosives

During the British rule explosions and explosive related activities became common and to detect the type of explosives and cause of explosions the department of explosives was set up in Nagpur and later established in 5 other regions of India i.e.,

  • Calcutta
  • Bombay
  • Madras
  • Agra
  • Gwalior

Government Examiner of Questioned Document (G.E.QD)

During the struggle for independence, the government of West Bengal created this post (to identify the handwritings of secret documents) in 1904. It was later shifted to Shimla in 1906 under the control of the criminal investigation department. During that time, Mr CR Hardless was appointed to this post.

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Serologist to Government of India

When the science of examining human blood in India was started, it had also become possible to examine seminal stain in a criminal investigation in certain specific cases where it felt mandatory.

Serology department was first established in Calcutta in 1910. Although the department was not developed, it did support the criminal investigations in India. It was renamed as Office of Serologist and Chemical examiner to the government of India.

Foot Print Section of C.I.D

It was established in Calcutta in 1915. The main duty was to collect, preserve and analyze the footprint for identification of criminals.

Forgery Section of C.I.D

In 1917 this section was set up under C.I.D by the government of West Bengal. They detect cases of currency /coins and forgery notes/documents. Later on, government security printing press was established in Nasik.

Ballistics Division

In 1930, it was established in Calcutta for the examination of firearms as the incidents of firearms were increasing. Later, the ballistics division was added in many state forensic laboratories.

Mobile Forensic Laboratory

Most of the states in India have got this Facility. The main function is to help police personnel in their investigation at a crime scene by helping them to locate, to collect and preserve the evidence. The team will also provide a photographic facility to record a crime scene and valuable evidence.  Another important duty is to guide the police to collect an adequate and correct sample for comparison and also provide leads for further investigations.

Scientific C.I.D Section

Some police are trained scientifically to help the department where technical photography, scientific surveillance and investigations and other technical needs are existing.

Cyber Forensics

Though the uses of computer in police organizations are limited still they have more significance in the collection, recording and analyzing data in the electronic form. This may be available in any crimes involving either physical presence of the perpetrator or even in the absence of oneself.

It would be mandatory that no crime would be possible to be committed without the communication of the information in any form (such as calls through mobile phones, email, SMS messages etc). There is a possibility of retrieving all these data through the analysis done in this division. Not only the retrieval of the data but also the possible determination of the location of the specific data that has been generated.

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