Forensics is nobody’s baby

Disowned by both health and home departments, it is a monument of negligence

shivani

Shivani Chaturvedi | July 17, 2014 | Chennai



P Chandra Sekharan, the principal scientific investigator in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and a Padma Bhushan awardee, is concerned over the state of forensic departments in India. The health administration believes they are not part of health services and belong to the home department, relating to police work. The home department, on the other hand, disowns them because they are not under its payroll. Thus they are neglected by both sides. This general trend in many countries may perhaps be one of the reasons for the dearth of experienced forensic pathologists, says Sekharan. (Also read: Sunanda autopsy affidavit reveals plight of Indian forensics)

He says forensic medicine is considered one of the most fascinating branches of medicine. Medical examination of the body of the dead or alive, the observations made thereon, accurate scientific assembly of the evidence gathered and reconstruction of reasonable inferences should fascinate those who choose to practise it, and give them professional satisfaction too. But there are not many takers for this specialty – not because of lack of interest among medical graduates but due to little interest shown by the health administration.

“Forensic medical science is one of the most disciplined sciences. If things go wrong there miscarriage of justice will take place,” he adds.
Sudha Ramalingam, a Chennai-based senior advocate and social activist, says the mortuaries in government hospitals are in poor state, unhygienic, away from the eyes of the general public, shunned by the living and beyond scrutiny or complaint by the dead. Corrupt practices abound in dealing with the dead. (Also read: Indian forensics: Raising a stink)

“Clients tell me it is a nightmare to go to mortuaries in search of ‘missing persons’ or accident victims. There is no dignity of death at mortuaries. I also learn that the employees are often drunk, saying that only then can they handle the trauma of dealing with the bodies on routine basis. It is necessary to enhance the salaries and perks of these employees, treat them with dignity to make them responsible and sensitive.”

(The story appeared in the July 16-31 issue of the magazine)

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