Growth of Forensic Science in India

Growth of Forensic Science in India

Forensic science is one of the most important branches of science that help us maintain law and order in our society. Forensic science involves the study of a crime scene, collecting evidence, processing and analysing the evidence, and convicting criminals based on this scientific analysis.

As a highly populated nation, India is in dire need of skilled and well-trained forensic scientists to control crime and punish the guilty, while protecting the innocent. Many top forensic science colleges in Nashik offer undergraduate programs in forensic science to interested students to increase the manpower in the field of forensics. Let us take a look at the history of forensic science in India, and its evolution over the centuries:

 History of Forensic Science in India

The progress in utilising science to investigate criminal cases was hindered due to the British regime’s adherence to Manusmriti and the ‘Arthashastra’ texts during the initial period of their administration in India. The starting of a revolutionary movement against the regime and the increasing knowledge among native Indians marked a turning point in the significance’s recognition of scientific evidence.

There was a surge in the momentum of development and application of science in criminal investigation. India’s journey in Forensic Science took a major leap forward during the latter half of the 19th Century, with remarkable developments and advancements taking place. The timeline below highlights the period when the maximum activities were observed.

 Analysing Forensic Science in the Late 19th Century

The first Chemical Examiner’s Laboratory was set up at Madras Presidency under the Department of Health in the year 1849. Subsequently, similar laboratories were established at Calcutta (1853), Agra (1864) and Bombay (1870) to cater to the needs of princely states.

1892 CE: With the introduction of the photography section in the Crime Investigation Department (CID) in Calcutta, records of the detailed description of every known criminal used to be kept. However, with the historic invention of Bertillon’s Anthropometric system of personal identification in the year 1878, the Anthropometric Bureau, first of its kind in India was established in Calcutta in the year 1892.

1897 CE: Sir William Herschel, while working for Indian Civil Service observed rampant corruption in payment disbursement to contractors. He then used thumb imprints on documents during 1858 for native contractors to safeguard the interest of the Government against the repudiation of contracts by them. Thereafter, while working as Collector of the district of Hooghly (Bengal) during 1891, with the active support of Mr. Edward Richard Henry, the Inspector General of Police in Bengal, could introduce the thumb impressions in the record slips, containing anthropometric data to avoid wrong identification of criminals.

1898 CE: The first Department of Explosives under the Chief Inspector of Explosives was appointed in the year 1898 with its Headquarters at Nagpur. Later on, other regional offices were opened to cover the entire country. However, their main area of work was under the provision of Explosive & Petroleum products for licensing of the relevant industries. It was also helping the investigating agencies on the scientific explanation of any cases involving explosives.

 Forensic Science in the Early 20th Century

On the recommendation of the Royal Police Commission during 1902-03, a Central Finger Print Bureau (CFPB) was established in Shimla in 1905 which was again shifted to Calcutta in 1956.

1904 CE: The first Government Handwriting Expert of Bengal was appointed in the year 1904 which was later shifted to Shimla and the Head of that office was re-designated as Government Examiner of Questioned Documents.

1910 CE: The serology department was formed which is now known as ‘Office of the Serologist and Chemical Examiner to the Government of India’. It supplies species specific antisera to all the Forensic Laboratories in India.

1915 CE: First footprint section was established in the CID, Government of Bengal which helped the police authorities to identify criminals through the examination of footprints collected from the scene of crime.

1917 CE: The first Note Forgery Section was established in the CID, Government of Bengal to undertake the examination of forged currency notes. Subsequently, the Government Mint & Security Printing Department at Nasik also established a similar facility.

1930 CE:  As the revolutionary movement was escalating against the British regime in India, the CID of Government of Bengal formed the facility where examination of bullets, cartridge cases, firearms etc. was carried out. It was first of its kind in the field of Ballistics examination facilities in India. At this time, the CID of other presidencies also started their own scientific sections for investigation of crime.

1936 CE: In this year, a scientific section was formally established in the CID section of the Government of Bengal where a number of forensic examinations, especially the physical parameters like fingerprints, footprints, firearms, questioned documents used to be examined.

 Development of Forensic Science Post-independence

1952 CE:  The first ever independent Forensic Science Laboratory in the country was established in Calcutta which became fully operational in the year 1953 under the administrative control of the Government of Bengal. Initially, the Chemical Examiner’s Laboratory was merged in this laboratory and after that other facilities were created for forensic examination of crime case exhibits.

In the year 1957, the first Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) was established under the aegis of Intelligence Bureau (IB), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Subsequently, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India set up a Central Forensic Science Laboratory the year 1966 for Delhi Police and exclusively for Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) being a premier investigating agency of the Indian Government at New Delhi which became functional in 1968. To meet the requirement of eastern & southern zones, two new offices of Government Examiner of Questioned Documents were established at Kolkata (1964) and Hyderabad (1969) along with CFSL, Hyderabad (1965) under the Intelligence Bureau.

The Bureau of Police Research & Development (BPR&D) was founded by the Government of India in 1970 for police research, development, training, and correctional administration. During 1972, on an invitation from the Government of India, Dr. VK Street, an eminent Forensic Scientist from the Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Edinburgh (UK) visited different Indian Forensic Science Institutions and strongly recommended the creation of a Department of Forensic Science and a post of the Chief Forensic Scientist to look after its Forensic activities for wholesome development of Forensic Science in India.

In 1973, the Standing Committee on Forensic Science reiterated this. The forensic laboratory in Chandigarh and CFSLs in Calcutta and Hyderabad were added to BPR&D in 1973. The Union Government created the Directorate of Forensic Science in 2002 to handle the increased workload on forensic activities.

However, in the year 2010, on the recommendation of committee ‘Perspective Plan for Indian Perspectives’ instituted by Government of India, the offices of the GEQD at Calcutta, Hyderabad & Shimla were merged with CFSLs at respective places and the Directorate of Forensic Science was re-christened as ‘Directorate of Forensic Science Services’ which cater to the needs of all State Forensic Science Laboratories for their modernisation from time to time as well as work as nodal agency for improvement of Forensic Science activities in India.

 Current Status of Forensic Science in India

Currently, all 29 State Governments have Forensic Science Laboratories with regional and mobile facilities to aid field experts in crime scene investigation and evidence collection. Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Puducherry, both Union Territories, have Forensic Science Laboratories controlled by the Union Government of India. Most laboratories provide facilities in various fields such as Ballistics, Physics, Documents, Biology, DNA, Chemistry, Narcotics, Explosive substances, Toxicology, and Electronics (Computer Forensics).

Some specialised facilities like Polygraphy and Audio-Video Authentication are available in a few labs. In India, Forensic Laboratories had legal status under State administration until the 20th Century.  Different laboratories have legal status to analyse samples under the NDPS Act, 1985.


Over the last few centuries, India has witnessed drastic changes in the field of forensic science due to the dedication and hard work of many professionals. Sandip University is committed to providing many more knowledgeable and skilled professionals into this field in coming years.

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