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November 4, 2018

SHC seeks status of DNA testing labs in Sindh


November 4, 2018

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the chief secretary, home secretary, health secretary and inspector general (IG) of police to submit a complete report on the status of DNA testing laboratories in the province as well as details of cases that were solved through DNA tests along with protocols adopted if such tests were conducted.

The direction came on the appeal of a man, Abdul Karim, against the acquittal of accused in the murder case of his daughter, Aamna, who was killed after being kidnapped. The body of the victim was identified through a DNA test conducted by a laboratory at Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS), Jamshoro. However, the cause of death was not ascertained as yet.

A forensic DNA analyst, Mohammad Hussain Soomro, informed the SHC that the cause of death had to be ascertained by a special medical board comprising a police surgeon, heads of LUMHS departments of pathology and anatomy and the magistrate concerned.

The director general health had constituted the medical board, the court was informed.

The SHC observed that the authorities concerned had failed to submit a report on the cause of the victim’s death. The court directed the director general health to ensure that requisite formalities were completed and the cause of death ascertained by competent persons. The SHC ordered submission of the report within stipulated time.

The forensic DNA analyst submitted that the victim’s remains were available with them and they had repeatedly asked police to collect the same which they did not do.

The court observed that police rules had provided guidance with regard to unidentified bodies and much importance had been given to secure the identification of the body; however, no mechanism was given to ascertain identity of the body in case of disputed claim.

The court observed that it was time to allow the introduction of possibility of DNA testing in achieving ultimate object of police rule 25.38 with regard to the identification of unidentified body.

The SHC observed that such exercise was not possible if the required parts of an unidentified body were not preserved. According to the court, investigation officers needed to ensure securing of necessary articles by authorised medical officers and their preservation at proper place.

The court further observed that all the magistrates dealing with the proceedings under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure with regard to exhumation of body shall ensure compliance of the above unless there are views otherwise if pleaded by inquiry or investigation officers.

The SHC directed that prosecutor general Sindh to submit a report if there was any mechanism to preserve such articles and whether such facilities were available in the province. The court directed the chief secretary, secretaries of health and home departments and IG to submit a complete report with regard to status of DNA testing laboratories facilities available in Sindh as well as details of cases identified through DNA tests. The hearing was adjourned till November 21.

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