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Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) Framework for effective implementation of Marine Forensic & for bolstering Maritime crime investigation in India

Prof. (Dr.) J. R. Gaur

Marine Forensics can be defined as the branch of Forensic Science which helps in the Investigation of criminal cases pertaining to marine life and environment. It can also be referred to as a scientific study of incidents or accidents which encapsulates water bodies including oceans, streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, swimming pools, dams, and other water reservoirs. The word “Forensic” is derived from the Latin word ”Forensis”, which means connected with courts of law or connected with a forum or a subject of discussion and debate.  Thus, Forensic Science can be defined as a specialized branch of Science and Technology which is helpful in investigation of crime and administration of justice science. It is not a single branch but an amalgamation of different branches of science and technology and is called “Forensic Sciences” 

History of Forensic Science dates back to pre-historic times. Depiction of human hands in cave paintings indicated that man, even in those times, was aware that if he applies his handprint near the painting, he can keep the painting separate from others. The presence of thumb impressions on potsherds, which were recovered from excavations of Indus valley civilizations (5000-6000 years of old), had indicated that man could apply his thumb impressions on earthen pots to ensure the identity that he created them. In China and Assyria from the articles of 7th century B.C., human hands and partial feet impressions have been noticed indicating that these could be applied to keep the authenticity of their articles. From then onwards, the science and technology developed and so did Forensic Science. There have been tremendous scientific developments in the field of Forensic Science in 20th century, especially in spheres such as fingerprints, footprints, biology, documents, DNA, toxicology, ballistics, physics, chemistry, and serology. In the 21st century, several other branches have emerged. Mentions can be of Forensic Psychology, Cyber-Forensics, Digital Forensics, Sports Forensics. Marine Forensics is also an emerging new branch of Forensic Sciences. 

Marine Forensic is applied to law enforcement for the protection of fishes, marine mammals, and other endangered species of aquatics or marine animals. Industrialization and urbanization have polluted our water resources as industrial and urban wastes are being disposed-off in rivers, streams, and sea. Under the Wild Life Protection Act of 1972 in India, the land and marine animals need to be provided with special care and for the detection of related crimes Forensic Biology, Forensic Serology, DNA Analysis, Toxicology, and osteology play an important role in the investigation. The maritime taphonomy (paleontology) also confuses the investigations sometimes. Thus, the differentiation between fossilized specimens and recent specimens of bones needs to be ascertained by the Marine Forensic experts/scientists.  

Sometimes certain articles are recovered from the sea which cannot be identified by ordinary means. Experts in various fields of Forensic Science identify such substances. Furthermore, some unidentified materials such as narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, explosives, firearms, ammunition, fake currency, and precious metals like gold and silver need to be examined and identified too. This can be done by utilizing the tools and technology of Forensic Science. Moreover, cases come to light when the dead bodies are recovered from sea/oceans. Whether the marine creature died by drowning or by animal bites or the person was killed by some weapon of offense and then thrown in sea has to be investigated. Such bodies need to be identified which can be done by using Forensic tools like somatoscopy, fingerprinting, DNA fingerprinting body and foot morphology, etc.  

The cases of human trafficking are of frequent occurrence all over the world due to multiple reasons and then people have to be identified by Forensic techniques and their documents, such as passports and visas, have to be identified by Forensic means. Forensic Science finds out what the case was all about and why different object/articles were lying in a particular arrangement in that situation. It also finds out corpus delicti and modus operandi crimes which are of utmost help in the investigation of cases such as that of plastic dumping, oils spillage, polluting sea/ocean of environment. Sometimes scientific investigation is also required for identifying machinery, equipment, and the parts of ships, ferries, boats, and submarines which are required during practice in Maritime Forensics. Investigation of the boundary disputes in oceans and investigation of piracy cases are very difficult and time-consuming. The problem is that underwater Forensic investigation in sea and oceans are because to water currents, turbulence, depths, property rights of ships and vessels. The brokerage/dents due to rolling down hits and accidents or otherwise has to be carried out forensically and various parts have to be salvaged. Soft tissue or soft parts of fauna and flora cannot be expected to remain intact and preserved after a long time. Thus, injuries or bite marks by sea animals have to be identified by Forensic experts to find out whether these marks are antemortem or post mortem in nature.  

Results and discussions 

A large number of cases of drowning, dry drowning, homicides, suicides come to light where human dead bodies are recovered from Marine Environment. Forensic investigations are certainly required in such cases for coastal policing by scientific means, therefore, community policing and forensic practices are needs of the hour. Furthermore, artificial intelligence and digital forensics have to be used for various investigations in sea/ocean for security purpose detection, surveillance, forensic acoustic and for interpretation of various suspicious messages, data and tools. Technologies are of great importance in marine environment for finding out the source/place of origin. Spilled oil samples from the sea/ocean, recovered NDPS substances, chemical analysis such as fractional distillation and C12/C13 methods of dating can help in fixing-up place of origin of such substances.  

Conclusion 

Forensic facilities are urgently required by the Indian Navy and coast guards for the above-stated purposes and for safeguarding for security of the nation. The long stretches of coast line and land borders in India are sometimes flanked by other countries for their vested interest who shift towards sea routes for transport, commerce, and other motives. Thus, there is a need for advance security system with respect to Forensic investigation in coastal areas and sea. It becomes an issue of paramount importance when the non-state actors such as terrorist-outfits and anti-social elements use sea routes for invading our country and breaching the security of the nation. 

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About The Authors

Prof. (Dr.) J. R. Gaur

Director , School of Forensics, Risk Management & National Security, Rashtriya Raksha University, (An Institution of National Importance) , Pioneering National Security and Police University of India