Over the last decade, the reliance on forensic evidence in India, especially DNA profiling, in criminal proceedings has been on a rise. While this is a positive move towards scientific investigations, the forensic system in our country is not adequately resourced to sustain the increasing caseload. The current research points towards the lack of adequate manpower, infrastructural inadequacies and organisational mismanagement as the main reasons for the sub par functioning of government forensic laboratories. These issues must be viewed in light of the fact that there is no legislative framework to regulate the functioning of forensic laboratories in India or enforce any quality standards. Further, there is little guidance on collection, storage and retention of evidence in criminal cases, or the testing standards and protocols that must be followed by laboratories. This leads to variance in practices adopted by investigative agencies and forensic laboratories in different states.
On part of the judiciary, while courts have recognized the importance of forensic sciences, there has been little engagement on how the validity and reliability of forensic evidence should be evaluated in court proceedings. Added to these are issues of non-examination of forensic scientists and denial of access to laboratory records which cumulatively affect the rights of an accused to meaningfully defend herself and lead to doubts over the strength of convictions in criminal trials. In such a framework, it is essential to gather empirical evidence on the existing standards and procedures being followed in forensic laboratories. In order to build a sustainable and reliable model for Indian forensics, we must begin by gaining an in-depth understanding of its current functioning to identify the challenges faced by our laboratories and uncover the reasons behind them.