Before commencing, I have a disclaimer to extract, I don’t consider myself as a forensic expert. However, by degree, I am a forensic scientist and if I have interpreted Section 45 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 rightly, I qualify to be called an Expert before the hon’ble Court of Law. But the subject upon which I am writing is a labyrinth in Toto, at least for me. Hence, my contextual understanding of the subject matter can be questioned. My naïve objections can be superseded and logical conclusions can be rejected by suggesting a better conclusion based upon the refined facts. But, as the topic that I want to touch upon is largely scientific in nature, and being a professional it is my rightful duty that my interferences must be based on solid backing of irrefutable evidence, in properly maintained ‘chain’, which can be reproduced again and again.
But even then, few of the jury may reject my opinion, but even if you feel, I am wrong, please indulge with me for next few minutes and later on you can quote me another ‘Bhakt’, an upper caste RSS guy who wears Hindutva on his sleeves and hence reject my opinion partially or fully but here I implore your kind indulgence. The subject upon which I am writing is little provocative or even rhetoric and I am well aware of the downside risk that few of my fellow readers may be yelled- up and some self-styled woke liberal or self-proclaimed left-intellectual (for few of whom I do have deep respect) even can try to manhandle me, digitally or physically. But the subject matter upon which I am writing as a student of science with all the systematic citation backed by verifiable proofs is open to interpretation, debate and at times discourse by my learned readers.
For the Truth we told, this is a subject of Grey but I am not a fan of grey. I prefer things in Binary: Black or White! But it’s not that I hate the Grey but I know this grey, in venturing into it and believing in it has given mankind only and only violence and misery. Here I talk about Grey of a reportage published in over-the-top media house “The Print” with title ‘Forensic expert in Gujarat riots case, SC lawyer among 6 who handed Shah Delhi riots report’ by author named Fatima Khan.
Again, if you are not from a science background in general and forensic science background in particular, I would like to give a brief introduction to what Forensics Science is. In simplest connotation, Forensic Science is application of the Science to the Law for Criminal Administration. But, based upon my experience, I came to know, Forensic Science is not a grey subject but it’s an Art as well with many shades of grey. For a novice, it may be sounding oxymoron but it’s what it is- Forensic Science is Science as well as Art. You might be wondering, why I am deliberating upon the different contours of forensic Science while taking the risk to confuse you if It’s Science or an Art. For Qualifying it to be Science, it must be objective in nature and as we know in Arts, there is room for Subjectivity as it lies with Forensic Scientist and also with many opinion of an expert wherein one has to conclude the case (or at times no conclusion at all) based upon a range of evidences-Explicit, Implicit, Scientific, Physical, Digital Circumstantial, Corroborative etc.
I am not sure if so-called Journalists of “The Print” has follow professional ethics or not but as a Forensics, we firmly resolve to adhere to certain well-established scientific standards. But unlike some journalists who love conspiracy theories and are above questioning, immune to cross-examination, a forensic expert is subject to merciless cross-examination, Interventions during disposal of evidence or opinion and at many times had to recall its opinion before honorable Court of law. Hence, an expert is expected to strive for respect, understanding and credibility before the court of law. Independencey, Non- partisan, prolonged image of neutrality, impartiality and objectivity are desirable attributes of a Forensic Expert.
A noted French Medico- Legal Expert, Dr. P.C.H. Brouardel sums up the role of an expert as “If the law has made you a witness, remain a man of science; you have no victim to avenge or guilty or innocent person to ruin or save. You must bear testimony within the limits of science”. In other words, the sole obligation of a forensic expert is to represent truth, as she/he sees it, addicting nothing, withholding nothing and Distorting nothing. However, as I said, by degree I am a forensic scientist hence by nature we believe in being Practical in life. In practicality, no one is neutral per-Se, If I claim myself to be Neutral, I am another hypocrite trying to impose my moral superiority over my audience. Neutrality is a sham concept used by people of vested interest to impose moral superiority many times. Being human, we all are biased- Politically, Culturally, Socially and so on. I am also biased, but biased for facts, Truth and objectivity and I firmly believe in dictum: “SATYAN NASTI PARO DHARMA”. Hence, it instigated me to write this article.
Now coming to the central argument of the debate– what constitutes a piece of writing as Reportage and what is opinion? But as I put a disclaimer, I have a natural inclination for binary hence is for reportage. A Journalist with high professional ethics puts reportage into binary form with little bit of shade of Black and little bit shades of white, hence neutrality is maintained. There is a second class of people, who are called opinion sellers and they sell shades of grey. An Opinion seller or maker is one who perceives any news or reportage from their point of view/ or from the lens of grey shed and put a commentary on it based on their biases, affection or affiliation not to mention many are only armchair journalist or activist with many sheds of grey hence there is ample room for subjectivity how they interpret any news or any subject – Black, White or with different shades of grey with click-bait headlines. In this great chicken game of contemporary journalism, many a times opinion is masqueraded as reportage and many a reportage are masqueraded as opinion. But I said, I am not into journalism hence you may question or reject my understating of the same. If I read the Tea Leaves Right, Fatima Khan ‘s aforementioned article is full of inherent biases, Preconceived notion based on whims and fancies and its full with sheds of grey. Let’s explore upon how, in next few paragraphs:
1. Clickbait Headline
The Print: Forensic expert in Gujarat riots case, SC lawyer among 6 who handed Shah Delhi riots report
Prima-facie and superficially it seems another headline but what catches my eye was the use of few words: Forensic Expert in Gujarat Riot case.
Fact – Gujarat Riot was communal one, Amit Shah was then Home Minister of the affected state and alleged to have played a role in it but the CBI court exonerated him. Not to mention the name of PM Narendra Modi who was given clean chit in the similar matter by the Apex court. But what I mentioned here is a well-known fact and I am not concerned with it. Here I want to bring in notice how bad imagination works. If I am correctly reading the headline, I am forced to draw a corollary.
- Scenario 1: Gujrat Riots 2002: Narendra Modi CM, Amit Shah HM but based on Forensic report (not to mention other evidence), charges upon them quashed.
- Scenario 2: Delhi Riots, 2020: Narendra Modi PM, Amit Shah union HM. Here no charges against them but the Forensic Evidence as disposed by Fact finding have same person on board who handled Gujarat riot back in 2002. what a Parallel!
Inferences: Crypto-coded language used by writer is indicative of the fact that the involved forensic expert is biased, his report can be directed against one community and union HM is probably a partition. But here, the writer either forgot to mention that Fact Finders are from Non- Government agencies and it is the discretion of HM to accept such reports or Reject the same based on his wisdom. I hope she will come out with charge sheet by Delhi Police on the role of a few members from one particular party and community. But again, Charge sheet or Investigation report filed by police is not the last word on any case, but it is decided by the court of law if it’s maintainable based on few doctrines of Judiciaries like res ipsa loquitur or not. But the timing of the said reportage is something strange to me. Just after one day, Delhi Police filled its own changeset with clear mention of a few names and evidence thereof.
Intended Motives (?) – Before court trial, start Media trail of the case, try to dilute the gravity of crime against humanity by drawing a corollary or conspiracy theory- Forensic expert in Gujarat riots case, Ishrat Jahan encounter case etc is the same who is braining report in Delhi riot case and the same was accepted by union Home Minister so if in future some adverse judgement comes against a certain group of people from particular community , consider it as Government agencies /Institutions are biased and the Justice is being suffered hence try to start a protest or even try to Import some mayhem from the current US Riots into India. But I wish, I am wrong in reading the Tea Leaves Right, But God forbid if it is so, I see a Doomsday in coming months in India like one triggered by the death of Jorge Floyd in the US. Right to protest is acceptable in any democracy but not the mindless violence which I can sense coming to India in next few months. Violence has become a low-risk high-return adventure with zero consequences. If something sinister is cooking into mind of anti- social elements backed by few fake intellectuals in India It is high time to invert this equation: turn violence into a high-risk low-return misadventure with serious consequences.
2. The Print: The forensic expert and an ‘NIA prosecutor’
Both the person is said to be working in sync with state agencies since a long time in the said report. Personally, I got a few chances to meet Dr. Dogra and is widely accepted as a Doyens, the stalwarts in Forensic Fraternity. His acumen of the subject matter is of Gold standards. But my work is not to defend any person but to abide by the professional ethics which was echoed by Dr, Dogra himself. Quoting him gives me Goosebump:
- “I didn’t see them as high-profile cases. A prime minister dying or a beggar dying — it’s all the same for me, they are my patients”
- “It may be surprising to people that I associated myself with the report, but I went to the field and we wrote what we saw. For me, there is nothing politically charged or communally charged in the report”
I refrain from commenting on the statement of commuter expert named Mr. Arora as I don’t feel to carry enough knowledge on how to scan through the entirety of the internet to connect the dots of a crime. Better sense prevails, don’t try to be an expert of everything.
Facts- As mentioned in paraphernalia of this article, we forensics as a professional don’t look into what a caste an accused carry or from which religion or region she or he is but we see an accused in Black or white with no shed of grey and work for ultimate goal- to bring in truth backed by irrefutable evidences followed by an objective interpretation.
Inferences- Everyone who is “Right” is always “Wrong”. Here, the writer tried to question the impeccability of the Experts only because they said they handled a few cases wherein Amit Shah or Namenda Modi’s Name was dragged.
Intended Motive(s): Based upon this notion, it is ethically correct to discard any such report, investigation report, decision by Courts (like Ram Mandir decision of recent past) or any such thing which doesn’t suits your narrative or start protesting that there is ‘state sponsored discrimination ‘against a set of people from certain Ideology or from certain community. If it’s not giving you any brownie try to Instigate protest using crypto-coded language or opinion or may even try to import violence of the US into India. God save India!
3. The Print: Report relies on website OpIndia
As per author, the fact-finding team dig into authentic news sources which can be corroborated and the most-cited news website in the fact-finding report is OpIndia, which has been cited 20 times in the 70-page long report.
Facts- The news reportage is admissible before the court of Law and it is considered hearsay or at times corroborate evidence. Hence if any Investigation report has mention of such reportage, there is no harm and it is on the wisdom of the court to decide the case based on merit of the content and context of the case.
Inference- Here comes the question of Moral Superiority, as something is Published on some news media channel of Over-the-Top news providers from certain ideological inclination, try to reject it without giving due consideration to the merit of the case and outrightly reject such reportage. Interestingly, many times such news reports are helpful in unfolding the jigsaw puzzle of many cases and based on report of such cases , an Investigator can gain the knowledge of Date or Place of Crime, the Accused, Nature of Crime, or the Vehicle, or weapon involved etc in alleged crime.
4. The Print: Draupadi Trust
As per the report, one Important member of the fact-finding team is Neera Mishra who runs an organisation called “Draupadi Trust”. The trust works on “vedic principles and philosophy” to create a “better understanding of ancient Indian culture.
Fact- A trust working for Vedic Darshan/ Indic philosophy with credibility can have any number of photos or Videos of any eminent person in public service and it doesn’t make them partisan.
Inference: Draupadi Trust is portrayed as inclined to one particular Ideology as it contains some video or photographs of some eminent person like Dr. Subramanian Swamy (The Print report identifies him as “controversial BJP leader”) Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat, President Ram Nath Kovind, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh etc.
But by going through the same logic, I find news reports of Fatima Khan as biased as she comes from one particular community and is working for The Print, whose founder’s Political orientation is no secret. It sounds injustice to her and The Print, but its the logic which is being portrayed into the report in crypto-coded language. The Judiciary, State Agencies like CBI, NIA or Police force, FSLs etc enjoy a lot of trust among common people and if not, there will be large scale chaos in society. In the last couple of years there are continuous attempts to scandalizes or question on wisdom of involved people in many cases or upon many decisions which are taken by large benches of the Apex court or High Courts by unanimous consensus but still if a group of people don’t find such verdict suitable to their narrative, they start questioning upon the authority itself which is more likely to erode faith of common people on authority and likely chances are there, it may be manipulated to Instigate violence in India.
I wish new age journalists would start developing a better understanding of nuances of Reportage in Black and white and Opinion with multiple shades of grey written in crypto-coded language. In anticipation of many Solicited or unsolicited suggestions on my opinion.