The DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2019 – UPSC GS2

DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019:
  • The Bill proposes DNA sampling and profiling of citizens accused of a crime or reported missing, and storing their unique genetic information for administrative purposes.
  • DNA testing is currently being done on an extremely limited scale in India, with approximately 30-40 DNA experts in 15-18 laboratories undertaking fewer than 3,000 cases a year.
    • The standards of the laboratories are not monitored or regulated.
    • The Bill aims to introduce the regulation of the entire process from collection to storage.
Bill provisions
  • It allows law enforcement agencies to collect DNA samples, create “DNA profiles” and special databanks for forensic-criminal investigations.
  • It states that all DNA data, including DNA samples, DNA profiles and records, will be only used for identification of the person and not for any other purpose.
  • It creates DNA Profiling Board (DPB) that will be final authority that will authorise creation of State-level DNA databanks, approve the methods of collection and analysis of DNA-technologies.
  • It makes accreditation and regulation mandatory for DNA laboratories.
  • It allows government to set up DNA data banks across India to store profiles.
  • These banks will maintain national database for identification of victims, accused, suspects, undertrials, missing persons and unidentified human remains.
  • It also empowers government to impose jail term of up to 3 years and fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh on those who leak information stored in such facilities.
  • It prescribes similar punishment for those who seek information on DNA profiles illegally.
DNA Profiling Board
  • The Board, with 11 members, is supposed to be the regulatory authority that will grant accreditation to DNA laboratories and lay down guidelines, standards and procedures for their functioning.
  • It will advise central and state governments on “all issues relating to DNA laboratories”.
  • It will also be the authority to make recommendations on ethical and human rights, including privacy, issues related to DNA testing.
DNA Data Bank
  • A national databank of DNA profiles is proposed to be set up, along with regional databanks in every state
  • The new draft does not specify the location of the national databank. All regional DNA databanks will be mandated to share their information with the national databank.
  • Certain DNA Profiling Board-accredited labs would be authorised to carry out DNA testing and analysis. These are the only places to which DNA samples, picked up from a crime scene can be referred for analysis
  • Data from the analyses will need to be shared with the nearest regional DNA databank which will store it and share it with the national databank.
  • The databanks will maintain five sets of databases — for DNA samples picked up from crime scenes, for suspects or undertrials, and for offenders, missing persons, and unidentified dead bodies.
Significance of Bill:
  • Bill will ensure that with proposed expanded use of DNA profiling technology in the country, there will be also assurance that DNA test results are reliable and data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.
  • It will also ensure speedier justice delivery and increased conviction rate.
  • It will also enable cross-matching between persons who have been reported missing on one hand and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country on other, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.
  • It will set in place, an institutional mechanism to collect and deploy DNA technologies to identify persons based on samples collected from crime scenes or for identifying missing persons.
Significance of DNA analysis:
  • It is extremely useful and accurate technology in ascertaining the identity of a person from his/her DNA sample, or establishing biological relationships between individuals.
  • As a result, DNA technology is being increasingly relied upon in investigations of crime, identification of unidentified bodies, or in determining parentage.
  • The aggregate incidence of crimes like rape, murder, human trafficking or grievous hurt etc, in the country, as per statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is in excess of 3 lakhs per year in the year 2016. Of these, only very small proportion is being subjected to DNA testing. The expanded use of DNA profiling technology in these criminal cases will result in speedier justice delivery and also in increased conviction rates, which at present is only around 30%
  • There are chances that a wrong match is generated.
  • If the DNA result is taken as the ultimate evidence, no recourse will be available to an individual who has been wrongly matched.
  • Privacy-related objections-main concerns are whose DNA can be collected and under what circumstances, who can access the database etc.
  • Information like ancestry or susceptibility to a disease, or other genetic traits, is liable to be misused.
  • DNA tests have not led to an improvement in conviction rates in countries where it is already being followed.
Justice Madan Lokur Report:
Retired Supreme Court Judge Justice Madan Lokur has given a written submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology with his observations on the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019.
  • Justice Lokur has questioned the need to collect DNA of a “suspect”.
  • He argued that in a blind crime or a crime involving a large number of persons (such as a riot), everybody is a suspect without any real basis.
  • This would mean that thousands of persons could be subjected to DNA profiling on mere suspicion.
  • He has observed that allowing investigating agencies to collect DNA samples from suspects, as laid down in the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019, will give them unbridled power that is easily capable of misuse and abuse and amount to a threat to the life, liberty, dignity and privacy of a person.
  • Also, earlier, fears had been expressed that the law could be used for caste or community-based profiling.
  • However, it was observed that these concerns do not negate the need for such legislation, especially when DNA technology was in use.

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