The lockdown and a shortage of staff has led to a rise in cases pending analysis and investigation at the forensic science laboratories in the state. Sources said that the number of pending cases with the directorate of forensic science laboratories (DFSL) had soared to a huge 61,000 in Maharashtra by the beginning of July.
“By January, the DFSL has around 50,000 pending cases, which have risen to over 61,000 by June-end. This can be attributed to understaffing and vacancies in the department,” said home department sources, adding that around 45% of the about 1,785 sanctioned posts were vacant.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to the state government reducing attendance in its offices to just 15% of the staff strength.
“The highest number of pending cases are in departments like cyber forensics and tape authentication and speaker identification (TASI) (around 8,000), followed by DNA and biology (over 6,000 each),” said the official.
Of the 61,000 pending cases, around 13,000 are in state-level forensic science laboratory in Mumbai, followed by Pune (about 8,000) and Aurangabad (around 6,000). “The nature of work in departments like cyber forensics is such that a unit, consisting of officer and assistant, can usually handle and report just around five to six cases a month. However, important cases, where forensic reports are a matter of urgency, are handled on priority basis,” he explained.
Maharashtra has a state-level forensic science laboratory in Mumbai and seven across the state (Nagpur, Pune, Nashik, Amravati, Nanded, Kolhapur and Aurangabad). It also has five mini labs with divisions for toxicology and biology at Thane, Solapur, Dhule, Chandrapur and Ratnagiri to ensure that the police and investigating agencies can get samples tested before their quality is compromised. It also has 45 mobile forensic support units in each of the nine police commissionerates and 36 district police headquarters.