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Experts question delay in DNA report in Shraddha murder case

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The Central Forensic Science Laboratory taking unusually more time than expected in submitting the DNA test report has come under attack.

New Delhi, Dec 06: Even after more than three weeks of accused Aftab Amin Poonawala's arrest, there is no conclusive proof that the 13 decomposed bones and part of a jaw, collected from the forest as part of the investigation in Mehrauli murder case are that of Shraddha Walker. According to reports, the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) is likely to release the DNA report sometime this week. Decomposed bones that investigators retrieved on the basis of Poonawala's confession made during his 14-day police custody were sent to the CFSL to confirm if they belonged to Walker.

Experts are, however, of the opinion that the DNA analysis should not take such a long time and drive home the point that if the result in such a high-profile case is taking so long, what about the regular cases which are not under public or media scanner.

Experts question delay in DNA report in Shraddha murder case

Meanwhile, police have to test the bloodstains found in Aftab's kitchen as well as compare the bones found in the Mehrauli forest to the blood samples given by her father Vikas Walker and brother.

Experts say such delay in DNA analysis inexplicable:

Top forensic experts told news agency PTI that 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 person's identity from remains even if they are six months old.

Killed Shraddha in a fit of rage, says Aftab during narco testKilled Shraddha in a fit of rage, says Aftab during narco test

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 Georgia's 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 told PTI.

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 country's 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 in 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.

Aftab used Chinese knife to dismember Shraddha's body, threw severed head in Mehrauli forest Aftab used Chinese knife to dismember Shraddha's body, threw severed head in Mehrauli forest

''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 Walker's 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.

Aftab used Chinese knife to dismember Shraddha's body:

Aftab had earlier reportedly confessed during the narco analysis test that he dismembered Shraddha's body into pieces using a Chinese knife (cleaver). Aftab has also confessed that he threw the weapon in the bushes near his office in Gurugram, sources close to a news channel said. Aftab also informed the Delhi cops that he dumped her severed head in Mehrauli forest. Another report claims that he cut her hands first. The accused has also revealed that Shraddha's mobile was thrown in the waters of Mumbai coast and it has not been recovered yet.

A love story doomed from the start

Aftab and Shraddha met through a dating app Bumble in 2019 and later moved in together at a rented accommodation in Delhi's Chhattarpur area. Her parents were against the inter-faith relationship and had stopped talking to her after she decided to move to Delhi with him.

Narco analysis test on Aftab Poonawala completed at Ambedkar hospital in DelhiNarco analysis test on Aftab Poonawala completed at Ambedkar hospital in Delhi

Poonawala allegedly strangled his live-in partner, Shraddha Walkar, and sawed her body into 35 pieces, which he kept in a 300-litre fridge for almost three weeks at his Mehrauli residence in South Delhi's Mehrauli, before dumping them across the city over several days in the dark of night.

Aftab was arrested on November 12 and sent to five-day police custody, which was further extended by five days on November 17. On November 22, he was sent to police custody for four days. The court on November 26, sent him to judicial custody for 13 days.

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