Why Should medico-legal studies be made compulsory in law faculties

The Mudaliar Committee has recommended the creation of a separate cadre of specially trained medical jurists to look after the medico-legal work of the State. The Mudaliar Committee Report was later on confirmed by the Survey Committee Report on Medico-Legal Practices in India, 1964, by stating that each State should also start a State Medico-legal Institute at its capital city attached to a Medical College for the training of the existing and future entrants into the medico-legal service of each State. 

I do not agree with the said Report as this Report emphasizes only on the inclusion and mandating of the Medico-legal studies only for the students studying Medical Sciences and not for the Students studying Legal Studies. The prospective lawyers need to learn the forensic medicine as they are required for dealing with the medico-legal cases. It should be made an integral part of the law students’ curriculum so that they can execute quality medico-legal work that would be invaluable in the dispensation of justice.

It is difficult for the curative doctors to deal with the medico-legal cases. They are not very confident while handling the medico-legal cases due to the lack of knowledge which might lead to injustice.

It is necessary for an ideal advocate to have the knowledge as well as experience about the medico-legal field and forensic medicine so as to deal with a case in a fair and just manner and represent their client in a better way.

Autopsies Done for the Wrong Reasons

Medico-legal cases of death are often not made to undergo an autopsy, especially in rural areas. This can be for various reasons such as apathy on the part of investigating officers, ignorance on the part of the rural community (primarily in poisoning cases), or to show curtailed crime statistics (just like in traffic accidents). To avoid the cumbersome legal procedures involved, villagers often think it better to cremate the body without an autopsy (as in suicide cases).

On the other hand, in bigger hospitals equipped with the latest investigative means, even when the precise cause of death, the identity of the person and the means, manner and time of death are known, a medico-legal autopsy is carried out routinely on mere technical grounds (that it is a medico-legal case). This causes unnecessary discomfort to the relatives of the deceased and also increases the workload of the already overburdened forensic professional.

Rather, it would be ideal to have a mandatory medico-legal autopsy in all those cases where the cause of death is unidentified, irrespective of whether it happens in an urban or a rural area. Also, the law should be amended to prevent the regular carrying out of medico-legal autopsies on technical grounds when the precise cause of death is known undoubtedly by ante-mortem medical investigations.

If an advocate has the knowledge about the necessity and the requirement of the autopsy, he will necessitate the autopsy and post mortem examination, which will in turn help him to know the real facts about the case and present the case to the Hon’ble courts in a better way.

Shortage of Forensic Experts

The number of forensic experts available in India, compared to the number required, is very limited. This could be due to the stigmatization of an autopsy surgeon as a “dead body” doctor, or it could be due to the poor working circumstances, or the pressure of doing work that is disliked by several people in the society.

Due to shortage of staff in most of the forensic laboratories, reports are delayed (Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied) and there are greater chances of overburdened staff making mistakes. On the other hand, many people do not consider a forensic professional’s job as a lucrative job, although it is challenging enough. 

There is a chance that the medical evidence is not properly presented in the Hon’ble Courts. By having forensic experts on, both, the prosecution and defense side in a case, we can eliminate the bias. By having private forensic science laboratories we can have independent testing of samples by non-government laboratories.

Conclusion

Hence, the study of forensic medicine must be made mandatory for Law students to dispense justice fairly to everyone. Central, State and District Medico-Legal Institutes must be set up with the essential mission to train the prospective forensic professionals, because for lack of competent men in India, the application of forensic medicine has become illusory. Each State should start a Medico-Legal Institute at its Capital and provide appropriate courses of instruction regarding the medico-legal field with adequate theoretical as well as practical teachings by trained medico-legal professionals. There must be a well organized teaching system both at under graduate and at post graduate levels. Post-graduate training in forensic medicine should be devised to meet two different needs - the training of teachers and specialists in Medico-Legal Institutes, and the training of practitioners desirous of joining the Medico-legal Services.  The Professors of Forensic Medicine must be provided with sufficient facilities to encourage them to undertake research in their field without which it will be impossible for them to keep abreast of the latest advancements in the subject and discharge their duties efficiently.

The Government of India and State Governments may be prevailed upon to encourage the growth of forensic studies in the country by liberally financing the Indian Academy of Forensic Sciences and similar bodies in fulfilling their objectives and the research schemes in the subject for which there is unlimited scope.

However, forensic medicine has to advance to keep pace with rising demand due to a higher rate of crime and we need the committed endeavor of all the professionals in this field to meet the expectations of the society.

Unless the subject of Forensic Pathology & study of the medico-legal problems with their nuances is made compulsory as an integral and mandatory part of the legal curriculum, even the setting up of the medico-legal institutes only shall not serve the purpose, because even if we do have trained professionals in this field there will be no practicing advocates competent to prosecute or defend the accused.

By: Navin Kumar Jaggi & Aashna Suri

 

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