By Sudipta Sengupta, TNN | Jan 11, 2013, 06.44 AM IST

HYDERABAD: The distraught family of Nirbhaya can hope for early justice with the Delhi High Court fast-tracking investigation in the December 16 incident, but the 23-year-old rape victim’s case is clearly a rarity.

Back home in Andhra Pradesh, the kin of at least 262 such women are awaiting justice since 2011 with all these cases caught up at the DNA testing stage. Interestingly, AP is home to a good half a dozen forensic laboratories, with Hyderabad being one of the three cities in India to house a Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL).

Despite the numbers, the disposal rate of rape cases in AP is abysmally low.

One of the primary reasons for this ‘poor show’ is the jurisdictional restriction on DNA labs, rue experts. Much like in the case of police stations, these centres too are bound by ‘borders.’ For instance, as per the existing law, all rape cases filed with the police anywhere in the state are customarily forwarded to the Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory (APFSL) in the city. The centre would be clearing files it had received in the year 2010 this year.

While the government-run CFSL is just a few kilometers away, the centre has a mandate to handle only cases pertaining to another state or Union territory. Rapes reported from within AP are incidentally out of its jurisdiction. “This indeed is a hindrance. There should be a unified system of handling rape case samples wherein any lab can run DNA tests to speed up investigation. In case of high pendency at APFSL, the CFSL should be brought in to share the burden,” said Dr G V Rao, a DNA analyst.

He also suggested the strengthening of the regional forensic laboratories that are currently ill-equipped and poorly-staffed. Among other districts, AP has one lab each in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam. “It is for the government to take appropriate measures to revamp these centres to speed up the process of DNA tests,” reiterated Venugopal Venkatamuni, deputy director of CFSL.

The Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), set up well over a decade ago to ease the burden on APFSL, too has failed to live up to expectations, say experts. While the centre does step in to assist the police with DNA tests, it is only an occasional affair. “The CDFD is unfortunately not doing what it is supposed to do. It lays more emphasis on research as against on routine cases these days,” said eminent scientist P M Bhargava, who is also the founder director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB).

While CCMB, at one point, figured on the list of centres used by the police for DNA testing, its services are no longer sought. “It was an expensive affair. So, the tests were restricted to APFSL,” said a senior police official.

The possibility of roping in private laboratories like the city-based Truth Labs, especially in sensitive cases such as rape, too was highlighted by experts. “But increasing the network of labs in not the only solution,” confessed Dr Gandhi P C Kaza, founder chairman of the centre stressing on the need for increased accountability. “If there is a will among investigators, at least 90% of all rape cases can be resolved within a set time-frame,” he said.