DNA Pro­fil­ing in Crime De­tec­tion

This sci­en­tific method of in­ves­ti­ga­tion proved that the two an­i­mals killed by Sal­man Khan in 1998 were black­bucks.

Alive - - Contents - by G.V. Joshi

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

In­dia.

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.

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