SUPREME COURT - SAMPLES COLLECTED FROM THE ACCUSED IN SEXUAL OFFENCES MUST BE SENT TO THE LABORATORY IN A TIME-BOUND MANNER.
In the case of Prakash Nishad @ Kewat Zinat Nishad Vs. State of Maharashtra [Criminal Appeal Nos. 1636-1637 of 2023 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) Nos.11009-11010/2015)], an FIR was registered against the Appellant under sections 376, 377, 302 and 201of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for allegedly sexually assaulting a minor girl and putting her to death by throwing the body of the deceased into a drain. The trail court vide judgement dated November 27, 2014, convicted the Appellant under the aforementioned sections and awarded a sentence of capital punishment.
Findings of the Trial Court vide common judgement of the Bombay High Court dated October 13-14, 2015, were affirmed, and the death penalty on the Appellant was upheld. Aggrieved by the decision of the Bombay High Court, the Appellant filed an Appeal in the Supreme Court.
In the appeal, the Supreme Court observed that the samples of blood and semen collected from the Appellant were sent to the laboratory for forensic analyses. However, it was found that there were no records to show who collected these samples and the number of batches that they were collected in, nor does it show when the samples were collected and when they were sent to the Laboratory for analyses. The Supreme Court also found that the police officials have failed to testify in relation to the formalities of keeping such samples safe and secure.
The Supreme Court also observed that no record of “chain of custody” was maintained, which makes the analyses done by the laboratory to lose evidentiary value.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court observed that:
“In the present case, the delay in sending the samples is unexplained and therefore, the possibility of contamination and the concomitant prospect of diminishment in value cannot be reasonably ruled out. On the need for expedition in ensuring that samples when collected are sent to the concerned laboratory as soon as possible, we may refer to “Guidelines for collection, storage and transportation of Crime Scene DNA samples For Investigating Officers- Central Forensic Science Laboratory Directorate Of Forensic Sciences Services Ministry Of Home Affairs, Govt. of India” which in particular reference to blood and semen, irrespective of its form, i.e. liquid or dry (crust/stain or spatter) records the sample so taken “Must be submitted in the laboratory without any delay.”
The Supreme Court relied upon the judgement pronounced in the case of Pattu Rajan v. State of Tamil Nadu [(2019) 4 SCC 771], wherein it was held that, even though with the advancement of science, the accuracy of DNA profiling is increasing day by day, we have still not reached a juncture where it may be considered infallible. The ruling in the case of Manoj v. State of Madhya Pradesh [(2023) 2 SCC 353] was also emphasized, wherein it was held that reliance on DNA reports is to be corroborated and being an opinion, the evidentiary value of such reports has to vary from case-to-case basis.
In lieu of the above observations, the Supreme Court saw fit to set aside the conviction of the Appellant and set him at liberty.