- DNA fingerprinting was first developed in 1984 by Alec Jeffreys in the UK, after Jeffreys discovered that no two people could have the same DNA sequence.
- Within three years of the discovery, the UK achieved the world’s first conviction based on DNA evidence in a case of rape and murder. Crucially, the evidence also saved the life of an innocent man who had earlier been charged with the crime.
The uniqueness of DNA fingerprinting:
- The uniqueness of DNA fingerprinting as a tool of investigation is not just limited to its accuracy but extends to the way it can sift through crime scene evidence.
- Advanced DNA fingerprinting can make separate prints of various individuals even from a sample mixture found at the crime scene — for example, in a gangrape case, DNA fingerprinting can identify each of the individuals involved in the act through one sample. In such cases, it becomes the clinching evidence against the accused, and also helps exonerate those whose samples do not match.
- DNA can typically be extracted from blood and semen stains on clothes or on the body, from hair and teeth (with roots), and even from bones and flesh if they are not completely charred.
India’s system of law for DNA fingerprinting:
- Under the Indian criminal justice system, there are broad guidelines on how DNA samples are to be collected from a crime scene. It is vital to ensure that the DNA of the investigators does not get mixed with that of the victims or the suspects. Thus, picking up samples from a crime scene with sterile tools and storing samples in a proper manner are crucial for the evidence to stand a judicial test.
- And this is where India’s police forces have a lot of catching up to do with counterparts overseas. While central agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) have found DNA fingerprinting to be very effective, thus ensuring that crime scenes are protected and samples collected by forensic teams, state police forces are yet to be trained in conducting such scientific investigations.
- The problem, however, is not limited to police. There is also a serious paucity of capacity for DNA fingerprinting in the country. While several states have their own forensic labs, DNA fingerprinting is available only at a few places — Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi, Hyderabad and Chandigarh.
- Advanced practices in the technology are limited to the Centre For DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) in Hyderabad. There are also several private labs that offer DNA testing, but all work under an unregulated environment, as a law to regulate such institutions has lain in a limbo since 2003.