THE DNA TESTS AFFAIR
EXCERPTS FROM THE COURT REPORT AND INTERVIEW
WITH GENETICS EXPERT DR. WILSON J. WALL
Swami Premananda was accused of raping Ashram girl Aruljothi and making her pregnant. The Prosecution alleges that Aruljothi had an abortion and the resulting foetus was DNA tested to confirm that Swamiji was the father. It is stated that the DNA test in Hyderabad carried out under the supervision of Dr. Lalji Singh, proved beyond any doubt that Swamiji was guilty. The Defence selected one of the world’s top genetics experts, Dr. Wilson J. Wall, to re-test the foetal tissue and Swamiji’s blood and to appear as an expert witness in the Court. Aruljothi’s rape and the DNA tests account for over 70 pages in the Sessions Court Judgment. This section includes extracts from:
1. Sessions Court Judgment and Aruljothi’s statement
2. Dr. Wall’s report to the Court
3. An interview with Dr. Wall in April 2001.
1. Sessions Court Judgment and Aruljothi’s statement
Sessions Court Judgement:1
“If the evidence of Aruljothi is scientifically proved by DNA fingerprinting, it becomes the conclusive proof of the Prosecution case.”
Aruljothi has stated:
“I was beaten and tortured by the police in late 1994 and early 1995 into giving evidence against Swamiji….There CB CID police forced me to sign a letter saying that Swamiji raped me in November 1994, that I was pregnant by him and that I apologized to the Court for not telling the truth before. I also had to request an abortion. They said that if I did not comply with this I would be physically assaulted by them. They then compelled me to sign and say the above in Court. I was confined by them against my will for two years and four months. I was tutored by the police and prosecution lawyers to give false evidence against Swamiji. My Court statement in 1996 was made up of their stories. The disgusting things they made me say were thought of by them and were not true. I have finally stated in Court on 24th March 1997 that I never had sex with Swamiji and that I wanted to return to the Ashram. However, the truth has been ignored and Swamiji has been judged guilty. I am willing to testify to all this in any Court of Law.”
Sessions Court Judgement:
“Prosecution Witness (P.W.) 14 Aruljothi is gained over by A1 Premananda at a later stage and hence no weight could be attached to her statement in the Court on 24.3.97. Her statement of 24.3.97 does not in any way stifle her earlier deposition sworn on oath in this Court.”
2. Dr. Wall’s Report to the Court:
“I have been in the field of human genetics for twenty years. I worked in hospitals in both the United Kingdom and Australia and also as a senior research fellow in St. Mary’s Medical School and the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory. I have appeared as an expert witness on many occasions in the London High Courts and many regional Crown Courts throughout the United Kingdom. I am a fellow of many recognized scientific institutes and founding member of the Society of Expert Witnesses. I have broadcast widely on radio and television both in the United Kingdom and Europe on the subject of DNA and published more than 40 papers as well as the textbook, ‘Chromosomes: The Complex Code’, published in 1996”
“Having been unable to observe the testing being done, I advised the defense counsel to seek the next best option, namely a visit to the Centre for Cellular Molecular Biology (prosecution laboratory) This was denied. Such a reaction leads me to conclude that the forensic evidence is not admissible in this case… I have done the evaluation work on the basis of the evidence recorded and investigation of the exhibits. One of the absolutely essential requirements of quality assurance is that the laboratory must document its entire performance… I have seen the notebook produced by Dr. Singh purporting to be the forensic notebook of work undertaken. In many places this is totally indecipherable…”
Dr. Wall holding the UK DNA Report
On 24th March 1997, Dr. Wall and forensic expert Dr. Purandare extracted 5ml. blood from Swamiji in Court. They were then officially allowed to proceed to Hyderabad where tissue samples of the supposed foetus from Aruljothi were handed over to Dr. Wall.
All official procedures were followed and the samples were taken to the United Kingdom. Dr. Wall’s report continues:
“James Watson, a qualified scientist and Paul Debenhum, another qualified scientist, carried out the necessary experiments on these two samples in collaboration with me and under my direct supervision. Paul Debenhum is the Director of the Laboratory and a very qualified scientist of international repute and a specialist in this branch of science. The total experiment upon samples took about three weeks. The final results became available on 20th April 1997 and I caused a report of the Laboratory to be sent to the Honourable Court in time. … The conclusion is that it is impossible that accused Premananda, whose blood I extracted before this Honourable Court, is the father of the foetal tissue which was handed over to me by Dr. Rao in Hyderabad and which, in turn, I delivered to the Laboratory in the UK…the Laboratory has not exhausted either the accused’s blood or foetal material supplied by the Hyderabad Laboratory…I have been instructed by the Defence to inform this Honourable Court that if the prosecution wants to repeat this experiment, the Defence is prepared to pay for the cost of the same. The prosecution can either depute Dr. Singh to do so or designate any other expert of their choice or this Court can appoint a third expert as is frequently done in many paternity disputes in the Civil Courts in England as well as in America. My earlier opinion that Dr. Singh’s methodology and conclusions are both wrong is now rendered 100% conclusive by the findings of the UK Laboratory.
When I say that the Accused has not fathered this foetus, what I mean to say is that there is not even a chance, or even an infinitesimal chance of him being the father”
3. An interview with Dr. Wall in April 2001.
Question: Can an exclusion of 100% be done by using DNA analysis?
Dr. Wall: Yes, it can and I’d like to explain how I come to this conclusion. When you analyse DNA, if you get a match between two samples, what you are really saying is that there is a probability that these two samples originated from the same person. When you get two samples which don’t match, they cannot have come from the same person. Therefore, certainly we can be sure when we have an exclusion, one hundred percent. When we have a match, that is when two samples correspond, we cannot be hundred percent sure that it is from the same individual. In the same way as if you know that a cow has four legs and you see an animal in the field with four legs, you have a match – they both have four legs. But you only have a probability that the other animal is a cow – it could be a horse. Now if that other animal had eight legs, you know that it can’t be a cow and it is a hundred percent sure it is not a cow and that is where you get the exclusion. And that is where when you get a match, you only have a probability that the two correspond exactly.
Question: Another point raised by the Judge referring to the S.T.R. tests [Short Tandem Repeats Test] carried out under your supervision, was that without the blood sample of the mother, the test presented by the defence is highly unreliable. According to her, without the blood sample of the mother, there cannot be any proper interpretation of the DNA profile of the aborted foetus.
Dr. Wall: … The results we achieved was from the aborted material. We managed to get two complete profiles, one from the foetus and one from the mother. It doesn’t matter which one is which, because neither of them could have been fathered by Swami Premananda. Had one of those profiles matched, then we would have had to have asked for a sample of blood from the mother. But since neither of them did, there was no use, no point in having a sample from the mother. It comes back again, if you have an exclusion you have an exclusion and no further testing will make it any different or give you any more information.
Question to Dr. Wall: The Judge stated “When the experts contradict one another, the evidence of that expert which synchronizes with the oral evidence has to be accepted…the evidence of PW59 (Dr. Singh) and the conclusion of the DNA Fingerprinting is unassailable” that when the experts contradict each other, the evidence of the expert which synchronizes with the oral evidence has to be accepted. The question here is whether this is a common practice in cases where experts contradict each other.
Dr. Wall: “It most certainly is not. When experts in a field such as DNA analyses are contradicting each other – and I must admit I don’t ever recall a case other than this one, where the difference has been so large, normally the difference in the assessment of DNA results is relatively small, then the judge will ask the two experts to get together and come to some sort of conclusion, to see if they can agree. If they cannot agree, the judge may order retesting to be done. More likely, if the gulf between the two experts were so large, the judge would say – I am not going to accept the DNA evidence in this case at all. If the experts can’t agree, then we don’t know whose evidence to accept and we won’t accept either. And that is the normal practice.”
Since the Prosecution results from Dr Singh were so different to my results, and the Court wouldn’t accept my results, I would suggest that a third laboratory is asked to test the samples and start afresh. I think that is really what the Court should have directed. It after all shouldn’t matter to Dr. Singh, and it certainly doesn’t matter to me if I am proved wrong, because we are working for the Court. We want the truth and therefore, if there is such an objection to our results, a third, independent laboratory should be instructed.
Question: The Sessions Court Judgment states, ”Defence Witness 49 (Dr. Wall), called and paid for by the defence, is heavily tilted in favour of the accused, and hence his evidence and EX.D.98 Report are to be rejected.”
Dr. Wall: “We are not partisans, whether we are employed by the prosecution or by the defence. Our job is to clear and clarify for the Court, so the Court can come to a valid decision. So in a UK Court, if there was a disagreement between two experts, the judge would probably say – we can’t accept anybody’s evidence, because we just don’t know who to believe, therefore the evidence is obviously inadmissible…
…If the Prosecution starts suggesting that the defence witness is in some way biased, then the defence can suggest that the Prosecution witness is somehow biased. It doesn’t work like that. Previously the whole use of experts in Court is that it doesn’t matter who employs them, what you are trying to do is help the Court to come to the right conclusion. You are not a partisan, you are not for one side or the other, you are actually for the Court and the Court is there to find out the truth…
I am prepared to appear before any Court in order to give further evidence in this case.”
Dr. Wall: “Someone is trying to set-up Swami Premananda. The DNA case is a fabrication from start to finish. This deception throws a terrible shadow over validity of DNA fingerprinting if now there are scientists who are prepared to misuse it to find the innocent guilty.”