Mehrauli killing: Experts lament delay in DNA analysis, officials attribute lag to staff crunch

nobel

Even after more than two weeks of accused Aaftab Amin Poonawalas arrest, there is no conclusive proof that the body parts recovered in the Mehrauli murder case are that of Shraddha Walkar, and a section of experts have raised questions over the delay in DNA profiling.

Poonawala was arrested on November 12 for allegedly strangulating Walkar in May, chopping her body into 35 pieces, which he kept in a 300-litre fridge for almost three weeks at his Mehrauli residence in South Delhi, before dumping them across the city over several days.

Police have reportedly recovered 12 human body parts on November 13 and sent these to a laboratory, which is yet to extract the DNA and match it with Walkars family members.

Authorities in the know of things, however, chose to remain tight-lipped on this.

Advertisement



“We cannot reveal anything about the body parts found since we have to maintain high secrecy in such cases,” Assistant PRO at Forensic Science Laboratory, Rohini, Dr Rajnish Kumar Singh said.

Top forensic experts said though it is immaterial to know details about the laboratories involved in this case, they highlighted that the delay is inexplicable.

According to them, specialists should not ideally take more than 24 hours to ascertain a persons identity from remains even if they are six months old.

Gyaneshwar Chaubey, professor of genetics at Banaras Hindu University, is of the view that 24 hours is a good time to extract the DNA from a year-old human remains even if it is in an unpreserved state.

Chaubey was part of the team that solved the 400-year-old murder mystery of Georgias Queen Ketevan through DNA analysis in 2021.

“We may not get flesh after six months or a year but bone marrow, a tissue found inside the bones, survives for more than a year and it makes DNA extraction easy,” he said.

When a case of this magnitude can take so much time, one can imagine the pace of justice delivery system in relatively less highlighted cases, he lamented.

“The delay is unfortunate and I propose to the government that it should have a special task force involving the countrys top DNA experts,” Chaubey added.

Dr K Thangaraj, senior scientist and director, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) under the Union government, said the entire analysis depends upon “the quality of samples, isolation of DNA from biological remains, selection of appropriate DNA markers, and most importantly, trained manpower”.

Institutions like CDFD and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have handled DNA sampling of high profile assassination cases, such as that of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.

Dr Thangaraj himself has worked on DNA sampling of some landmark cases, which include solving the mystery of a 4,000 to 5000-year-old human skeleton belonging to the Indus Valley civilisation at Rakhi Garhi in Hisar, Haryana.

“In the 1980s and 90s, the technology was not so advanced and it used to take about 10 days to generate a DNA profile/fingerprint, but today, generating a DNA profile of fresh samples should not take more than 24 hours,” he added.

He further said in Walkars case, isolating DNA from six-month-old samples may be challenging, but experts who have handled samples of similar nature would not take more than three days to establish the identity.

Forensic scientists in state government labs blamed workload, tedious protocol and shortage of skilled workforce for the delay.

A source at FSL Rohini told


(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)

CATCH US ON: