The Office of Attorney General (OAG) and the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) face various challenges in gathering timely evidence, as there is no forensic laboratory in the country. The lack of concrete evidences is causing delay in prosecution for a minimum of six months, mainly in rape and paternity cases but also in other heinous cases.
The Chief of Police, Colonel Chimi Dorji, said that the biggest challenge that the police faces is not having a forensic lab in the country when they are dealing with rape and paternity cases as it is difficult to prove that a particular man is the rapist or prove the biological father of a child.
“In such cases, we need to do a DNA test which we have to send it to India for the outcome. If we had the lab in country, we need not have to wait and can easily ascertain the father of the child or the accused rapist,” he added.
Similarly, when there is a murder case and it is difficult to detect the culprit, the police has to arrest the suspect on suspicion. He said, “When we arrest them on suspicion, we have to collect the blood sample from the crime scene and relate it with the culprit and the deceased. “To ascertain the real culprit, it is important to conduct DNA testing from the collected blood sample, which is unavailable in Bhutan. “This is another challenge as it is difficult to identify the prime suspect instantly,” he added.
Another challenge is in connection to documents, he said. He said, “If a person denies signing any last will document, they need a forensics to prove that it is the deceased person’s signature and this is another challenge.”
They sometimes need to conduct toxicology tests to determine the poison a person has consumed which again cannot be done immediately due to the absence of the lab.
The police end up working harder to gather evidences manually through information and evidence collection to prove the suspect guilty.
The Police Chief said if there is a forensic lab in country then it will be easier for them to solve any kind of cases in a short period of time.
He said, “Once we send for DNA test to India, we have to wait from 6 months to one year, and sometime 2 years, because our test has to wait in queue. If the collected samples are not preserved well then it tends to go bad and it is same as not doing a test at all.”
In addition, he said that if the forensic testing takes long, then the police charge sheets the case to the court and requests them to send the suspects on bail because there is always a chance of a person being proven innocent after keeping them behind the bars for a long period.
“We are trying to process with the government, but the forensic equipment are too expensive, and therefore, I think that the government is having a second thought on that. However, since we have only few cases which need forensics, the equipment can go unutilized,” he added.
He also said that the government pays for sending DNA tests to India but the issue is with time taken to get the results.
Meanwhile, a lawyer from the OAG said that when it comes to forensics, people only think that it’s only to do with DNA. “When you talk about forensic, it goes beyond that and forensic plays very crucial role in every crime,” the official said.
He said that there is a need for forensic evidence, mostly DNA test results, when OAG fails to tie up the crime directly with evidence or when it just has circumstantial evidences.
“To get results for the DNA, it takes a year sometime. However, there was an incident in the past where they got the report in four months and that too because the court directly intervened,” the lawyer added.
OAG has a lot of cases pending due to no forensic results. “This is all because we do not have a forensic lab in the country,” the official said, adding that, even if they have one in the country they will need well-qualified people working in the lab to gather the information.
“Having qualified people is not enough though, we should change investigation culture so to gather evidences scientifically and to avoid the weapon used from getting contaminated,” the lawyer said.
At least every police officer to that extend should be trained on how to lift fingerprints. “I would say even below officer level should be trained as any person might have to do it in absence of any officers,” the lawyer added.
There are cases where a single woman will have three to four defendants accused of being the father of her child and there are also underage girls sleeping with a number of boys.
In such cases, the OAG lawyer said, “Legally all the men are guilty but for paternity test we can only link it with one person. This is why it is must to have a sample from the start because we cannot solely depend upon circumstantial evidences.”
He said that when they have to wait for the forensic report, the court sends the accused on bail/ surety but if it is first or second degree felony, the court will not send them on surety. They are also chances of the accused destroying the evidences, intimidating a victim or running away.
The lawyer said that there is a need to have a forensic lab in the country. He said they have not proposed for a national level forensic but for evidence gathering lab with proposal to procure equipment for police and training of police personnel. But the support and funding is not confirmed as yet.