Forensic Evidence In Shopian Case Fabricated

11 August 2009
The Hindu

New Delhi: Key forensic evidence in the ongoing investigation of the alleged rape-murder of two women at Shopian appears to have been fabricated, highly placed police sources told The Hindu. Experts at the Central Bureau of Investigation-managed Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory (CFSL) have determined that the DNA profile of tissue cells present in the slides sent by the Jammu and Kashmir police do not match with the samples from the victims’ blood and viscera. Put simply, the slides supposed to have been prepared from vaginal swabs of the victims were drawn from other women. The tainted evidence Gynaecologist Nighat Shaheen, who drew the samples from the victims’ bodies on May 30, had been called to Shopian from the government hospital in Pulwama to assist in post-mortem, after a mob attacked the doctors initially charged with the task. Dr. Shaheen, according to eyewitnesses who deposed before the Justice Muzaffar Jan Commission of Inquiry, told the crowd at the hospital that the victims had been sexually assaulted. The Shopian-based doctor, Nazia Hasan, told the Commission that she had made an earlier attempt to conduct a vaginal examination of the victims, but failed because of rigor mortis. Later that day, slides were made from the vaginal swabs and sent to the Jammu and Kashmir Forensic Sciences Laboratory in Srinagar. Not properly sealed The case records maintained by the Jammu and Kashmir police show that the Forensic Sciences Laboratory in Srinagar at first refused to accept the slides from Pulwama - one of which was found damaged - as they were not properly sealed. The slides were then taken to Dr. Shaheen’s home for re-certification. On June 1, experts at the Forensic Sciences Laboratory conducted tests, which detected the presence of sperm in the slides. However, as Dr. Shaheen had sent only one set of slides, which were stained with chemicals during these tests, the Forensic Sciences Laboratory expressed its inability to extract DNA. The CFSL, though, succeeded in retrieving DNA from the stained slides. Perplexing findings Speaking to The Hindu, an official involved in the investigation said the CFSL findings raised three possibilities: the slides were sent in error; they were tampered with to shield the four police officers being investigated for their possible role in the deaths; or the slides were planted to substantiate the allegation of rape, which was initially directed at Army troops. “The obvious explanation,” he said, “is that someone wanted to shield the accused police officers. But in that case, it stands to reason they’d simply have sent the FSL slides with no semen present.”