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Recently CBI officers probing the alleged rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, arrived at the Gandhinagar-based Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) with the four accused for their  brain electrical oscillation signature profiling (BEOSP) test to be conducted .

  • Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature Profiling (BEOSP) also known as brain fingerprinting is a neuro psychological method of interrogation in which the accused’s participation in the crime is investigated by studying their brain’s response
  • Brain finger printing is based on finding that the brain generates a unique brain wave pattern when a person encounters a familiar stimulus. Use of functional magnetic resonance imaging in lie detection derives from studies suggesting that persons asked to lie show different patterns of brain activity than they do when being truthful.
  • The BEOSP procedure does not involve a question answer session with the accused and is rather a neuro psychological study of their brain.

So what exactly is the BEOSP test?

  • Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature Profiling (BEOSP) also known as brain fingerprinting is a neuro psychological method of interrogation in which the accused’s participation in the crime is investigated by studying their brain’s response. The BEOSP test is carried out via a process known as electroencephalogram, conducted to study the electrical behaviour of the human brain.
  • Under this test, the consent of the accused is first taken and they are then made to wear caps with dozens of electrodes attached to them. The accused are then shown visuals or played audio clips related to the crime to check if there is any triggering of neurons in their brains which then generate brainwaves. The test results are then studied to determine the participation of the accused in a crime.  
  •  The tests are based on the phenomenon’s of ‘knowledge’ and ‘experience’. A person’s brain might have knowledge of the crime committed and the alibi they have come up with. But it is the ‘experience’ of having participated in the crime that determines their guilt.”

So,

  • Brain fingerprinting is a type of lie-detection technique.
  • It is an objective and scientific method to detect concealed information stored in the brain, by measuring brain waves.
  • It is one of the techniques of crime detection, put to use in certain sensitive cases.

What differentiates a BEOSP test from a polygraph or a lie detector?

  • The BEOSP procedure does not involve a question answer session with the accused and is rather a neuro psychological study of their brain. In a polygraph test, the accused person’s physiological indicators are taken into account which include blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration and skin conductivity. However experts say that while a person might be able to control their pulse rate and BP even in times of distress, a BEOSP test offers a much more credible result.

Why were the accused brought to Gandhinagar FSL?

  • Founded in 1974, the Gujarat state FSL in Gandhinagar is India’s premier laboratory for forensic sciences and technical investigation. The FSL has a total of 1100 staff and offers varied services including suspect detection system, computer forensics, narco analysis as well as an accredited ‘cow meat’ testing mobile laboratory. In Gujarat, each of the 33 districts has a forensic van of its own where forensic experts are on the go, collecting samples from crime scenes and transferring them to the Gandhinagar-based FSL.
  • As per a report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Gujarat FSL accounted for the highest number of fingerprints traced in 2019 with as many as 69636 cases. The FSL has a record of 21 lakh persons’ fingerprints in its database. In January this year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah flagged off the VISWAS (Video Integration and State Wide Advanced Security) project under which more than 7000 CCTV cameras installed in 33 districts of Gujarat is manned in a pyramid structure by a centralised control and command centre in Gandhinagar which in turn is entrusted to send any live feed related to crime investigation to cyber-crime lab of FSL.

Major cases that landed up at Gujarat FSL

  • Among the high-profile cases were the Nithari serial killings, the Aarushi murder case, the Godhra train burning case, the Shakti Mill gangrape case and the on-going Narcotics Control Bureau case involving Bollywood. In the Bollywood drug racket case, the NCB had sent cellphones of various Bollywood stars to trace deleted WhatsApp messages pertaining to narcotics. In the Nithari killings, it was the brain mapping and narco tests done on the accused Surender Koli which made the forensic experts opine in court that the accused might be suffering from a sexual perversion disorder i.e. necrophilia.

Can these tests be admitted as evidence?

  • Not as a standalone. In 2010, the Supreme Court passed a judgment in the Selvi versus State of Karnataka case where the bench observed that narco analysis, polygraph and brain mapping tests cannot be forced upon any individual without their consent and the test results cannot be admitted solely as evidence. However any information or material discovered during the tests can be made part of the evidence, observed the bench.