Maybe because of the gap of medicinal knowledge, between investigating officers and forensic experts, the likes of Dr Gupta will always have the last say.

Voices Sunday, August 24, 2014 - 05:30
H M Larson| The News Minute| July 4, 2014| 8.15 am IST Forensic Sciences is generally not the most sought after specialisation for doctors but within All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), India's most prestigious institute, forensic department is probably the most powerful and also controversial. The power stems not from good jobs or big pay packets but from the clout and power that doctors enjoy at the institute. Given that AIIMS is located in Delhi, and that CBI headquarters is also located just 3 kilometres away from it, both CBI and Delhi Police routinely seek assistance in probably all high profile cases. Proximity to the institute and media glare forces probe agencies to seek their help. Many senior police officers still remember, it was T D Dogra who made the forensic department most powerful. Dogra got his MD in forensic medicine in mid 70s, at a time went DNA profiling was still an alien concept in India. Dogra, assisted the CBI and Delhi Police virtually in all cases- from Indira Gandhi’s assassination to Gujarat riots, Batla House encounter and Aarushi Talwar murder case. "When you handle such cases, you have direct access to the Director of CBI and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, two of the most powerful IPS officers, after DIB," says a senior cop. It is no surprise, that if you visit the forensic department, you will see top policemen seeking opinion from forensic experts. And it could be because of this "proximity", Dr Dogra managed to retire from his alma mater as the AIIMS director. It was Dr Sudhir Gupta, who took over the department, later. But if they have illustrious cases to back them, there are also dubious cases like the 2002 Ansal Plaza encounter, where the same team gave clean chit to special cell's 'encounter cops". Sudhir Gupta, has spent over two decades in AIIMS, and gradually rose through the ranks. Unlike other forensic experts, he loves the media. He always had some quotable quotes and his debriefings were always well attended. While a section of Delhi Police is relieved that he almost gave a clean chit to them in the Sunanda Pushkar case, many are now asking whether he has put his foot in his mouth by making outlandish accusations. A police officer, who has interacted with forensic doctors quips, "there is more politics in mortuary than you can ever believe". His peers, however say, Dr Sudhir Gupta, is a workaholic and also slightly outlandish. In his official letterhead he proudly mentions that he's a winner of gold medal as an MBBS student. Once Dr Dogra retired, Gupta too got his share of big cases. Incidentally, his knowledge of DNA profiling, helped him to crack Bhanwari Devi, the case in which a minister of Gehlot government was arrested. From gathering clues from skeletal remains of Bhanwari in a brick kiln, he went on to conduct DNA on Bhanwari's children to prove that their "real" father was a politician. Within India's premier agency it is still considered to be, forensically, one of the best cases. In the Batla house encounter, he insisted on carrying out a simulation test, hitherto an unknown concept. Later it was used by CBI in the Sohrabuddin and Ishrat Jehan encounter cases. But his detractors say, the same team failed to solve the mysterious death case of Sadiq Batcha, 2G accused A Raja's friend. Policemen who know him say Dr Gupta always insists on a panel of doctors to conduct post-mortem, but he's also someone who wants his opinion to override the team's opinion. Dr Gupta or his colleagues at AIIMS are no CSI series (famous American crime series on Fox Crime) forensic experts, but over the period of three decades, they have probed most big cases in the country. A senior officer in the crime branch says, "Unlike other medicinal fields or branches, the least technological advancements have happened in forensic sciences across the globe. Since early 1980's, no progress has been made except DNA profiling". Maybe because of the gap of medicinal knowledge, between investigating officers and forensic experts, the likes of Dr Gupta will always have the last say. Clarification- The earlier version of the article wrongly mentioned Dr Gupta as Dr Dogra's protege, we have removed the reference.