LAHORE - Investigation officers have been destroying biological evidences in most of the rape cases being reported in Punjab particularly in rural districts. Hence, most of the suspects go unpunished amid flawed investigations.

It was learnt that the investigators rarely visit crime scene to collect evidence with the help of forensic experts. In most of the rape cases, they prefer eyewitness account to establish the case in courts.

According to an investigation conducted by The Nation, the provincial police did not bother to call the “Crime Scene Units” of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency for evidence collection in most of the rape cases including child abuse incidents reported across Punjab during the previous year.

Believe it or not, police did not call crime scene units for evidence collection in 9 out of 12 child rape and murder cases reported in Kasur district since 2015. More interestingly, the police and authorities conducted at least 1150 DNA tests in the Zainab murder case but not a single DNA profile was done in other eight cases.

Last year, at least 2980 cases of rape and 190 gang-rape incidents were registered with the Punjab police.

Out of total 2980 rape cases, the police quashed at least 588 FIRs. Some 181 cases are still under investigation while six cases were declared as untraceable in the police record. However, suspects in 2205 cases were charged by police.

As far as the gang-rape cases were concerned, the suspects in 121 gang-rape cases were charged by police while 44 cases were cancelled. At least 25 cases of gang rape are still under investigation. However, the police declared four cases as untraceable.

Police investigators say they believe biological evidence or DNA test is the additional proof during the course of investigation. But, forensic experts say police fail to establish rape cases before the court of law because they destroy physical evidences intentionally or unintentionally.

An official of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency said the crime scene units were not allowed to visit the crime scene in 9 out of 12 cases reported in Kasur district since 2015. “Police did not call PFSA experts in each rape or murder case. But they call us after destroying (biological) evidences,” the official said. “Had the police engaged the crime scene units after a series of child rape and murder cases in Kasur, a few lives would have been protected.”

According to him, the Punjab Forensic Science Agency had informed the Kasur police in early 2017 about the discovery of a single rapist in a series child abuse and murder cases. “But, police did nothing.”  The officer, who spoke to The Nation on the condition of anonymity, said that the PFSA were providing free of cost services to the government departments particularly the police and prisons. He said that the medical examination of a rape victim must be conducted within 12 hours in sodomy cases and within 72 hours in rape cases. He said the police waste important time by delaying medical examinations of the victims.

“Unfortunately, some police policemen mint money in the name of forensic reports from the victim or the accused parties. We don’t charge any fees. The reports are directly sent to the district or the divisional police officers. But the local police don’t share these reports with the victims. In some cases, the investigators conceal these reports to protect the accused persons, for the time being.”

On the other hand, a few victims said the police don’t take rape cases seriously. A rape victim, who has been fighting her case in a local; court, told The Nation that the policemen often try to involve local leaders for settlement between the victim and accused parties. Evidence collection, on time, is not their priority. So, they benefit the accused by delaying the investigation,” she said.

Even the medical officers at rural hospitals don’t follow the standard operating procedure during sample collection and parcel transportation. The police officials are not trained in evidence collection and they often destroy biological evidences since they had no evidence walls or storage rooms at the stations.

A Punjab government official, when contacted, said they were considering issuance of a copy of the forensic report to the victim party as well in order to end the police monopoly. “The PFSA has now decided to issue a copy of the report to the prosecutors also,” the official said.

He also said that the crime scene units are being established at all divisions of the province in order to collect, pack, and transport the specimen in an effective way. According to him, the DNA test reports may take a month or two but the blood sample reports are issued within 24 hours. “The police use delaying tactics in depositing the samples of the suspects for matching,” the official insisted.

Early this month, a senior officer told the police investigators that they should not become judges while investigating the criminal cases, particularly child abuse, rape, and murder cases. DIG Sultan Chaudhry asked the investigators to visit the crime scene soon after the police report a rape case.

“Nobody should judge any case on his own and no one should build any opinion (before the investigation). Only, evidence should be collected so that challans of cases are sent to courts accordingly,” the DIG stated at the launch of the Gender Based Violence Cell at the Investigation Police Headquarters.

In June 2014, the Punjab police department made DNA test mandatory in each rape case as part of transparent investigations into rape cases.

The police revealed in an annual report in the same year that one female was assaulted sexually after every three hours and 40 minutes while one gang-rape incident occurred after every 45 hours and 38 minutes in 2013 in the Punjab province. Of 2,576 rape incidents reported in 2014, the victims in 167 cases were children.