Sunday, May 3, 2009

Creation of posts under the Maharashtra Public Service Commission

Short-staffed lab gets 20 new posts out of 60 it needs

Almost around the time the Indian Mujahideen’s alleged media-wing chief Mansoor Asghar Peerbhoy was said to be scouting for spy cameras and radio frequency detectors in the US to facilitate terror activities, the Maharashtra Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) had sent its first proposal to the state home department for creating new posts and expertise in areas like cyber crime, tape authentication and narco-analysis.

One-and-a-half-year after the request, during which the state probed the IM terror e-mails and witnessed the Malegaon blast and the 26/11 attacks, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on Saturday cleared one of the many requests of the Kalina forensic Lab.

Chavan sanctioned 20 posts, comprising 4 assistant directors and 16 assistant forensic experts on a year's contract. Chavan said since there were several cases requiring forensic evidence and the lengthy process of clearing and creation of posts under the Maharashtra Public Service Commission was under way, these 20 posts were being approved.

The assistant director posts are being sanctioned in the field of psychology, cyber crime, tape authentication, biosciences, blood analysis and DNA testing. The appointed staff will receive a pay between Rs 15, 000 and 20,000, the government said.

The Kalina lab has handled some significant cases since the 7/11 serial train blasts like the IM case, the Malegaon blasts and the recent terror attack. Much of the evidence compiled in these three cases relies heavily on forensic data admissible in court.

The department has been grappling with staff shortage and was feeling the need for new departments to keep abreast with the growing number and types of terror cases.

In an official correspondence dated September 17, 2007, the lab had sought 60 news posts for scientists, experts and lab assistants in new departments like psychology division, polygraphy, fingerprinting and narcoanalysis, of which 41 were only for cybercrime and tape authentication. Senior posts of assistant director and deputy directors for all these departments have been vacant for two years now.

High pressure, few hands

* The lone expert for cyber crime cases is on a contract at a meagre salary of Rs 15,000. The actual demand is four scientists, six experts and at least 7 lab assistants.

* The three-year contracts of three experts lapsed in October 2008. They continue to work on pending cases on an extended contract. The contract is so weak that they can leave any moment for better pastures. The three senior experts on contract foot their own allowances and travel expenditure.

* In the last two years, the department added new sections like Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature (BEOS). The lab handled the Aarushi Talwar case, after the CBI approached them for profiling suspect Vijay Mandal.

* The workload, according to reliable sources, for tape authentication has increased after a court ruling in the Bharat Shah case that a taped conversation can be used as evidence.

* In January last, the lab faced the ire of the Home department after it failed to submit details of laptop findings of Malegaon blast accused Sudhakar Dhardwivedi in time. They are trying to meet the 2nd deadline this week.

* The full report in IM case was given a day before chargesheet was filed.

* The Home department had approached the Finance department, which said a total of 892 posts were sanctioned for the lab in 2004. Not all posts on that list have been filled. The lab has been told to accommodate the 60 posts required, from the list of 892 posts, and revert with a proposal where these changes are made.

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