History and Development of Forensic Science in India
The application of science and technology to the detection and investigation
of crime and administration of justice is not new to India. Although our
ancestors did not know forensic science in its present form, scientific methods
in one way or the other seem to have been followed in the investigation of
crime. Its detailed reference is found in Kautilya's Arthashastra, which was
written about 2300 years ago. Indians studied various patterns of the papillary
lines, thousands of years ago.
It is presumed that they knew about the
persistency and individuality of fingerprints, which they used as signatures.
Even Mr. KM Kata, a frequent contributor to Nature, stated that the Chinese
records proved the use of fingerprints in an ancient kingdom of southern India.
The Indians knew for long that the handprints, known as the Tarija, were
inimitable (unique). The use of fingerprints as signatures by illiterate people
in India, introduced centuries ago, was considered by some people as ceremonial
only, till it was scientifically proved that identification from fingerprints
was infallible (Flawless, Perfect).
Chemical Examiner's LaboratoriesDuring the nineteenth century, when the cases of death due to poisoning posed a
problem to the law enforcement agencies, a need was felt for isolating,
detecting and estimating various poisons absorbed in the human system. The first
Chemical Examiner's Laboratory was, therefore, set up for this purpose at the
then Madras Presidency, under the Department of Health, during 1849.
similar laboratories were set up at Calcutta (1853), followed by one each at
Agra (1864) and Bombay (1870). These laboratories were equipped to handle
toxicological analysis of internal organs, biological analysis of stains of
blood, semen, etc. and chemical analysis of food, drugs, and various excisable
materials to provide scientific support to the criminal justice delivery system
within their limited means. These laboratories also provided analytical
facilities to the neighbouring States and Union Territories.
Anthropometric BureauWhile some progress was made in the identification of poisons, the
identification of people, specifically criminals, was still being done in a
rather haphazard manner. Policemen would try to memorize convict's face so that
they could recognize him if he got involved in another crime later. With the
introduction of Photography, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)
maintained records of every known criminal including a detailed description of
With the invention of Bertillon's anthropometric system in 1878,
India, along with the other countries of the world, adapted Bertillon's system
of personnel identification and thus an Anthropometric Bureau, for maintaining
anthropornetric records of criminals, was established in 1892 at Calcutta.
Finger Print Bureau
William Herschel, the Collector of the District of Hooghly (Bengal) found that
markings on the fingertips of a person never changed during his lifetime.
Herschel applied his knowledge and skill in devising a system of registration of
finger or thumb impressions of native contractors to safeguard the interests of
the Government against the refutation of contracts by them. Thereafter, he
extended his registration procedure to prison regulations for identifying
In 1877, Herschel sought the consent of his superior
officers in putting his ideas into practice, but did not succeed. In 1891,
Edward Richard Henry's appointment, the Inspector General of Police in Bengal,
introduced the thumb impressions in the record slips, containing anthropometric
data, to avoid wrong identification. Long before 1897, he introduced maintenance
of duplicate criminal records with impressions of 10 fingers separately.
Department of explosivesWhen the use of explosives for subversive activities became common, it was found
necessary to detect the causes of explosion, either accidental or intentional.
The foundation of the Department of Explosives was laid when the first chief
inspector of explosives was appointed in the year 1898, with his headquarters at
Nagpur. Later, five regional offices at Calcutta, Bombay, Agra, Madras and
Gwalior, and three sub-offices were opened.
They developed competence to provide
scientific clues in respect of explosives as well as the possible causes of
explosions. Their expertise came handy in police investigations in the crimes
related to explosions and for evolving various provisions under the Explosives &
Government examiner of questioned document, Shimla
The British Government of Bengal felt the necessity of identifying the
handwritings on the secret documents connected with the Indian independence
movement and, therefore, created the post of Government Handwriting Expert of
Bengal. Mr. CR Hardless, was appointed to this post in 1904.
This set-up was
shifted to Shimla in the year 1906 and was placed under the control of the
Director, CID. A post of Handwriting Expert for the Government of India was
created and Mr. CR Hardless was appointed to this post. He was replaced by Mr. F
Brewester, a police officer from the West Bengal CID, and was designated as the
Government Examiner of Questioned Documents (GEQD).
At first, the work of this
office was mainly confined to the identification of writings on secret
documents. Later, as the application of this branch of science was felt in many
other cases, the services of this office were thrown open to criminal as well as
civil court cases. During the World War II, this organization took up the
additional work of secret censorship, including the detection of invisible
writings and training of military personnel in this field of science.
Footprint section of criminal investigation department
During the year 1915, a Footprint Section was established under the CID,
Government of Bengal, which helped the police authorities to identify criminals
through the examination of footprints collected from the scene of crime.
Ballistics LaboratoryIn 1930, an Arms Expert was appointed and a small ballistic laboratory was set
up under the Calcutta Police to deal with the examination of firearms. As the
threat of firearms grew, other State CIDs also established small ballistics
laboratories to help them in the criminal investigation.
State Forensic Science laboratory, Calcutta
The first state forensic science laboratory in India was established in the year
1952 at Calcutta. This laboratory became fully operational in the year 1953. The
Medico-legal Section of the Chemical Examiner's Laboratory was also transferred
to this laboratory. During the year 1955, a small unit of Physics was
established in the West Bengal State Forensic Science Laboratory to deal with
various physical examinations of exhibits encountered in crime investigation.
During the year 1957, the Physics unit developed into a full-fledged Physics
Central finger print BureauOn the recommendations of the Royal Police Commission of 1902-03, the first
Central Finger Print Bureau (CFPB) in India was established in 1905 at Shimla.
The CFPB started functioning from 1955 in Delhi under the administrative control
of Intelligence Bureau (IB). The major role envisaged for CFPB was to coordinate
the activities of State in tracing/locating inter-state criminals.
Indian Academy of Forensic ScienceThe Indian Academy of Forensic Sciences (IAFS) was established in the year 1960.
This academy started a biennial scientific journal, which served as a forum for
the exchange of ideas in forensic science with the other international bodies.
The role of the Academy was also to hold annual scientific meetings/seminars or
assist in holding seminars in forensic science. In fact, it was at the instance
of this Academy that the Government of India established the Neutron Activation
Analysis Unit to cater for the forensic needs in the country.
Institute of Criminology & Forensic Science at New Delhi
After a series of debates at the Government level, it was decided that initially
the Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science should be established only for
training the in-service personnel and for conducting research in the field of
forensic science. It was felt that unless the State governments and the consumer
organizations agreed to participate in the scheme, it would not be wise to start
courses for granting postgraduate degrees.
However, the ultimate objective of
the Institute was to develop into a full-fledged academic institution affiliated
to a university. With the above aim in view, the Institute of Criminology and
Forensic Science (ICFS) was established in Delhi during 1971 with the limited
objectives of imparting training to the in-service personnel and conducting
research in Criminology and Forensic Science.
It was also envisaged that the
Institute should have two distinct faculties viz. the Faculty of Criminology and
the Faculty of Forensic Science and both should have a number of eminent
teachers and researchers with adequate background and field experience.
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