A day before the inauguration of the Chennai center (there is another one in Delhi) by former President Dr. APJ Abul Kalam, Dr. Kaza took time out to speak to Ramananda Sengupta
about truth, and why it is important. Excerpts: Where did all this begin?
Most of the investigations in this country are in a situation where justice is delayed, denied or deprived, except for those who have the powers and privileges. The common man, who is invariably poor, economically and socially, and underprivileged, is suffering for want of justice, whether it is a criminal offence, or a civil litigation.
That’s the reason why they hesitate, or even avoid, approaching a police station or a court, even if they are victims of injustice. Both police and the judiciary need convincing evidence to prove the guilt of the accused before they come to a conclusion or hand out a sentence. In many cases, such proof beyond reasonable doubt is not available to the police and court. The conviction rate in India is just about 10 per cent. So 90 per cent of the criminals, who are consciously and knowingly committing these crimes, are emboldened to commit more and more crimes.
The biggest loser is thus the common man. For the common man to prove the truth in many important cases is difficult. But once they get it, many of them have shown interest in settling the dispute among themselves, be it personal or family or business disputes. This includes institutions as well.
I thought I could spend the rest of my time energy and money on catering to the needs of such common people and organizations, through an institutional mechanism, supported by honest, skilled and honourably retired forensic scientists, policemen, judicial officers, some other science and technological stalwarts.
So I sold my property in Banjara hills, Hyderabad, and donated Rs 2 crore for the foundation that started this. A lot of well meaning people supported me, and that’s why it is still going on. Today’s inauguration (of the Chennai branch office, by former President APJ Abul Kalam) is also because well-meaning people supported this organization, to bring its services to Chennai and the Tamil Nadu region.
But basically, what do you offer?
We offer our services for a variety of commonly encountered problems by people and organizations, like questionable documents, cheating and theft, (where a polygraph can be used); medico-legal cases (where cause and time of death have to be decided); forensic investigations where arson, pilferage, theft, are involved; crime scene investigations, where we can collect fingerprints and other evidence.
We also offer audio video authentication, for cases where people deny having said something they had. It’s called speaker identification. This can be as simple as a housewife who frequently speaks with her boyfriend while her husband is away, but keeps denying it. The husband records one such conversation, and we can authenticate it. We can also do this for a recorded conversation between a bribe taker and a bribe giver. Who gave you your first case?
The first case came from a sessions court in Kurnool district, where there was a case of forgery. They came and said the case is going to start, so we want some credible opinion on this. The government labs take six months to a year to give us a report. We want a quick opinion to decide this case. This was followed by the High court, the CBI, the CID, the Delhi police, banks, corporations, insurance companies, MNCs. They all started sending us cases. How does the funding work?
So far, the funding is not working. Initially, the equipment and the infrastructure I donated were necessary for starting. But to sustain ourselves, we need at least 100 cases a month. Now we hardly have 60 to 70 cases. That means we are falling short by 30 or 40 cases just to break even. Leave alone my original donation, which I am not trying to get returns on anyway. But there are some other people who have donated some space, and their time. To offset those expenses, I need another 50 or 60 cases. Who are your biggest clients now?
Right now the biggest clients are the courts. Forty to 50 per cent of our cases come from various courts. But they pay minimum charges, Rs 5000 per case. That is what they pay to the government labs. We charge the same because in India the lowest quotation works. So I can say that my job is quick, it is credible and high quality, but nobody will take that for granted.Suppose tomorrow I came to you with a case, what would be the fee structure be like?
Rs 5,000 is the basic fee. If there are huge number of documents, which require months and even years of perusal, then you will be charged accordingly. This is a service, it’s not a business.How do you promote the lab?
Unfortunately, we are not the 21st century generation people, so we do not know what is promotion. We only know how to do our work well. I know we lack promotion. I agree it would be crucial in getting us more cases. But I am the only one who has prime interest in this. All the others who are supporting see this as a peripheral interest. And now I don’t have time, or even the money, to really promote this. How many regular staffers, or employees, do you have?
We have about 15 regular staffers whom we call analysts. They are technical people, who take up, examine, and report the cases. Then there are some 15 regular consultants or experts. How do you decide whether or not to take up a particular case?
All cases which need justice, we take up. Sometimes, we get people who want injustice, though rarely, because most people know by now that the Truth Labs caters only to the truth. If by chance we get someone who wants only a particular result, we flatly reject them. Otherwise, we cater to every citizen of India. In fact, there are some foreign citizens also, like the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mr. Anwar Ibrahim. He has been implicated in a sodomy case where he was not involved, and we are defending him. But we only want the truth.So you also have legal experts?
Yes, of course. We have two former chief justices of the Supreme Court, some Chief Justices of High Courts, and a number of High Court judges.
Your lab has been called in to report on high profile cases like the Nithari killings and the Godhra violence, but is there any particular case which you personally feel very proud about having cracked?
Yes, there was this case of a young lady, some 20 years old, a Jammu Kashmir beauty queen, who was implicated as having acted in a blue film. Somebody powerful had sought sexual favours from her. And when she refused, she was implicated.
Even though two other labs, one a central forensics laboratory, and another a state laboratory, had given an opinion that she was involved, we boldly stood by our position that she was not. This created a nationwide furore, but the high court has accepted our verdict. Credibility is a big thing for you.
Integrity, credibility, and pride in our work.Are there any cases that you haven’t been able to solve?
No. We have solved every case we have taken up.Do you have any competition?
We are the only such lab in the world, where over 15 experts have come together to offer such an institutionalized laboratory service. There are some individual experts, who have set up shop in their own bedrooms, but there is no structure like ours either in India or any other nation.A lab means a lot of physical infrastructure…
We have decentralized our structure. Our specialists in polygraphy sit in Delhi. Our cyber-forensics experts are based out of Bangalore. Our handwriting specialists are in Chennai. In Hyderabad, we have our medico-legal specialists, DNA specialists. I do not have the space nor the money to get all my equipment in one place.
So you are not funded by the government at all?
The government funds only government institutions. What about the tie-ups you have with institutions like the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, The Bureau of Police Research and Development, the University of Hyderabad, etc?
They are necessary for some of the analytical testing like DNA etc, I cannot do them. It takes over a crore of rupees to get such facilities. For the BPR&D, I have taken up training of their personnel, for the National Law School of India University, we have series of courses in Cyber Crime Investigation, for senior officials. With the university of Hyderabad we have tied up to start a course for young students who are interested in forensics.
I also saw something called “crime stoppers” on the bulletin board in your office.
Yes, that was my original initiative. We have seen people not cooperating with the police. People having knowledge of a crime, but hesitating because of the poor public image of the police. That is causing a lot of damage to our country’s security. Such a system already exists in 23 other countries, where the police enlists the support of the common man or the common people, in providing information that is useful for the police and other investigation agencies to improve the security and law and order situation.
I started that with a sort of Dandi march in 2007, to see the kind of information we could collect from the people, and this also inspired a host of others. But unfortunately after a few years, we found that despite senior officials having endorsed us, the police were not co-operating with us, and acting very selectively on the information we provided, and this in turn eroded the public faith in our efforts. So I thought I must retain my own credibility. But this still exists?
I still get information, but I am now being selective about what I receive, and what I pass on. What next?
If I can break even quickly, I want to expand my services to other parts of the country. I could have 10 such centers to serve the common people in our country.
How confident are you about making this work?
I am confident of one thing. I believe in God, and if God feels that the people of the country need such a service, it will work. If He feels that we, the people, do not deserve it, He will just ask me to stop one day. The moment that happens, I will be leaving the country and settling in the US. Truth, in this country, is very difficult to promote. Public servants are not accountable to the public. If one has to be accountable to the people, they have to be more truthful. So to be in public service, and to be truthful, is very difficult.
Truth is my Lodestone. I will live and die for truth. So even if God asks me to lie, I cannot. But He won’t.
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