DNA Profiling in Crime Detection
This scientific method of investigation proved that the two animals killed by Salman Khan in 1998 were blackbucks.
On April 5, 2018, Indian movie actor Salman Khan was sentenced to five years imprisonment and a fine for poaching two blackbucks in 1998. However, very few readers may be aware of the fact that the science of DNA Finger printing also called as DNA profiling (because most animals have no fingers) mastered by the scientists like Dr G.V. Rao and Dr Sunil Kumar Verma working at Hyderabadbased Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), and Late Director Dr Lalji Singh of Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) also in Hyderabad, played a key role in identifying conclusively that the two animals shot down by Salman Khan were ‘blackbucks’, which are endangered animals therefore protected in
The blackbuck is listed under Appendix III of CITES In India and hunting of blackbuck is prohibited under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Blackbucks are found in several protected areas of India. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was first signed in 1973 in order to protect certain species of wild fauna and flora against overexploitation through commercial trade. CITES first entered into force on July 1, 1975, and now more than 170 nations including India have signed and
ratified the CITES treaty.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a molecule that carries the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning, and reproduction of all known living organisms and many viruses. DNA and ribonucleic acid (RNA) is one of the four major types of molecules that are essential for all known forms of life. Most DNA molecules consist of two strands coiled around each other to form a double helix.
In the past
Earlier the identification of animals in poaching cases was carried out only through their general features and appearance. At the most scientists could say that the poached animals were tigers or lions or rhinos or antelopes. They could not conclusively say that they were blackbucks and not nilgai or chinkara among antelopes.
However, a young Indian Forest Service officer, who knew about the DNA-based technology used in human identification and paternity cases, sought CDFD's help in the case. He had exhumed the buried carcasses of the black bucks. His conviction further changed the course of the investigation. He said that only a scientificallyproven report establishing that the carcasses were that of black bucks would stand in court.
Dr Rao and his colleagues then took on the responsibility and started the investigation by first collecting blood samples from the black buck at Hyderabad zoo from which its DNA was extracted. He then compared it with the DNA samples of different antelope species. Simultaneously he extracted DNA samples from the skins and bones of the exhumed carcasses to identify the species.
Dr Rao was able to establish a unique strain in the DNA of black bucks, which then helped him to confirm that the exhumed carcasses belonged to two different black bucks. He used this piece of evidence to depose in the case in 2000 and verified that the carcasses belonged to two blackbucks.
Interestingly, this work led to the development of Universal Primer Technology (UPT) by Dr Sunil Kumar Verma and Dr Lalji Singh of CMMB. UPT is a DNA based method that can identify any bird, fish, reptile or mammal from a small biological sample, and satisfy the requirements for legal evidence, in a court of law. This technology has revolutionized the field of
Interestingly, this work led to the development of Universal Primer Technology (UPT) by Dr Sunil Kumar Verma and Dr Lalji Singh of CMMB. UPT is a DNA based method that can identify any bird, fish, reptile or mammal from a small biological sample, and satisfy the requirements for legal evidence, in a court of law. This technology has revolutionized the field of wildlife forensics and is now routinely used across India to provide a species identification service in cases of wildlife poaching.
wildlife forensics and is now routinely used across India to provide a species identification service in cases of wildlife poaching.
The future course of the case is not known, but the role of science and scientific methods in crime detection is proved beyond any doubt.
Blackbucks DNA extracted from the blood samples collected at the Hyderabad zoo.
Forest officers exhumed buried carcasses of the blackbucks for investigations.