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Fudged forensics

Political motives are being attributed to the discharge of S. Malini, assistant director of the Forensic Sciences Laboratory, Bangalore. Karnataka Home Minister V.S. Acharya made it seem that he had no choice, as the Opposition wanted her immediate removal, without any "niceties". Records available with THE WEEK show that Acharya did not take any action against Malini despite the director general of police's letter of November 4, 2008, recommending her discharge from duty.

In his letter (No. CRM/05/MC/2007) to the principal secretary (home), former DGP R. Sreekumar wrote: "It is observed from a close supervision of the work of Dr S. Malini that her work and conduct are not satisfactory. It is proposed that orders may please be passed by the Government as per Rule 6 of Karnataka Civil Services (Probation) Rules, 1977, discharging [her] for general unsuitability with immediate effect in the public interest." The CoD had established through phone records that Malini was leaking confidential information to the media even before reports and CDs were sent to investigation officers.

As no action was forthcoming, Sreekumar wrote three more letters in 2008 (dated Nov. 17, Dec. 4, and Dec. 26) to the principal secretary. In his last letter Sreekumar pushed for her ouster in the light of "serious irregularities which have come to our notice and prima-facie established in our confidential enquiry." He said the discharge should be done for "the safety and security of the people ?of Karnataka, proper functioning of the police department and the FSL and in order to uphold the morale of honest and sincere employees of FSL." ?Still, Acharya refused to do anything.

The confidential letter highlighted two irregularities: Malini's fudged age proof and her working in a private nursing home while being on the state's rolls. Her date of birth is May 12, 1964, as per the attested copies of her SSLC certificate attached with her application (dated 1/6/2007) to the FSL assistant director's post.Her degree marksheet shows that she passed her bachelor's degree in April 1980. So was she just 16 years old when she completed her ?bachelor's?

Further more, the police's confidential inquiry proved, with the help of Karnataka Secondary Education Examination Board records, that her original date of birth was May 12, 1960. Everything else in the register tallied with the fudged card-her marks, father's name (Subramanyam K.S.), school code (A118) and registration number (F025025).
By changing her age, Malini had gained the advantage of four years. This came in handy to bypass the home ministry's requirement that applicants to the assistant director's post should be under 45 years. At the time of application (April 2007), Malini was 47 years old.

To add to all this, all attestations on her certificate copies were done by her husband, Dr B.K. Muralidhara, professor of mechanical engineering, UVCE, Bangalore University. The police report stated that attestation of testimonials by a close relative was illegal and that Malini had something to hide by resorting to such a step.
Coming to the second point in the letter, the DGP proved that while drawing salary from the government from July 2007 (Malini had joined as a contract employee in the same capacity in 2000), she was working in a private nursing home.

The confidential police video, which THE WEEK saw, showed that she was listed among the consultants of the psychology and sociology ?department of Spandana Nursing Home, Bangalore. Her qualifications were listed as MSc., MPhil, and Ph.D; in government records her postgraduate degree is an MA. Following her discharge on February 25, her ?name has been taken off the nursing home's list.

Dr P. Chandrashekharan, former director, forensic science department, Tamil Nadu, said: "Her thought-form is disjointed and her thought-process incoherent. When I examined a ?specimen SSLC marks card and the card submitted by Malini, it was clear that she had done a cut-and-paste forgery." Chandrashekharan was instrumental in establishing 'the human bomb element' in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Chandrashekharan, a staunch opponent of the narco-analysis technique, added: "She has taken the nation, the judiciary, the police, the CBI and the media for a ride. Sometimes, her 'findings' may have coincided with the truth. But that's accidental coincidence. First, I thought the narco technique was a fraud, now it is clear that the analyst was also a fraud."

Chandrashekharan also produced documents from a fast-track court (Criminal case no. 694/05) in which he was called to comment on Malini's statements. Her statement in court reads that she did her "Ph.D Clinical Psychology and specialised training from WHO and Calugari University [sic], regarding Narco Analysis and Brain Mapping."
A second document with Chandrashekharan is a letter on the 'official stationery' of the department of psychology, faculty of social sciences, University of Calgary. The letter signed by Dr M.C. Boyes, associate professor, certified "Malini S. has been trained in basic and advanced hypnotherapy conducted by this University in collaboration with International Society for Hypnosis." On the letterhead, Canada is spelt as 'Cannada'.

Another certificate which Chandra-shekharan felt could be dubious was issued by the "Intitute [sic] of Psychological Research, Bangalore" in association with the "Department Of Psychology, University Of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Cannada." It confirms Malini's participation in an international training workshop on hypnosis held from May 2 to 11, 1992, at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Participation certificates do not signify specialisation, said Chandrashekharan. Moreover, hypnosis is a far cry from narco-analysis. "Even street magicians [can] go to hypnosis workshops," he said.

Malini's discharge is seen as a blow to the investigation of several pending cases. The police, however, beg to differ. A former DIG found that the Bangalore FSL had not submitted reports in more than half the narco-analysis tests carried out on the accused. He found that only high-profile cases were being taken up, mainly for publicity. An officer of the rank of DIG found that narco-analysis reports submitted by the FSL had no "useful information or clues leading to detection of cases". When asked how the police fell for the lie, he said: "Everyone fell for it. Every investigation officer thought it must have worked in some other case. But it worked for nobody."

Said Additional DGP (recruitment and training) S.T. Ramesh: "Narco-analysis shifted the focus from time-tested methods of investigation based on hard work, to shortcuts. Basic forensic sciences such as physical and chemical analysis, ballistics, toxicology, handwriting analysis, biology including serology and superimposition techniques were relegated to the background. Inordinate delays in conducting narco-tests and furnishing reports added to the woes of investigating officers."

Police department data reveals that 450 narco-analysis cases are pending before the Bangalore FSL. "At the rate of three cases per week, it will take 150 weeks to take up the pending cases. Do not forget that there are six cases adding to this pile, every week. So the narco-test's viability is also questionable," an official said.
Bangalore FSL has conducted more than 700 narco-tests since Malini joined it as a contract employee in 2000. Now its most celebrated forensic investigator is being given a hostile and most unceremonious send-off. Those who crowned Malini 'the narco queen' see a political conspiracy in her discharge. Those who demanded her discharge, too, see a political conspiracy behind the government's belated response.

Source: The Week


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