DNA Profiling – UPSC GS3

Human DNA Profiling Bill:
  • The bill proposes to allow collection of samples from private parts of human body for DNA profiling and data preservation with the approval of a regulatory body.
  • It suggests that a National DNA Profiling Board and a National DNA Bank be set up in Hyderabad, with every state having a regional DNA data bank. The DNA Data Bank would maintain records of samples found at crime scenes, or from suspects, offenders, missing persons, volunteers, etc.
  • The bill also makes it clear that no DNA Laboratory shall undertake DNA profiling without the prior approval of the DNA Board.
  • If a foreign country requests DNA profiling, the DNA Bank will coordinate through CBI or a concerned department.
  • The bill mandates that the DNA profiles or samples be kept confidential, and they should be used only for establishing identity of a person and nothing else.
  • Government investigation agencies and judiciary, among others, can seek information from Data Banks. For unauthorized use of data, a stringent punishment is provided.
Law commission view:
  • Law Commission submitted a new draft bill – the DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017 – in place of an earlier bill on the issue referred to it by the Union government in September 2016 and said it had enough safeguards to protect right to privacy of citizens.
  • Government referred the matter to Law Commission because concerns were raised by sections of civil society that proposed law amounts to breach the privacy of individuals.
  • Law panel response: use of DNA-based technology for criminal investigation, identification of missing persons and unidentified bodies as well as the proposed National DNA Data Bank would in no way breach the privacy of individuals.
Why DNA Data Banks?
DNA Data Banks, both national and at state level, will be responsible for storing DNA profiles received from accredited laboratories and maintaining certain indices for various categories of data, like crime scene index, suspects’ index, offenders’ index, missing persons’ index and unknown deceased persons’ index.
DNA profiling and Law commission recommendations:
  • DNA profiling would be undertaken exclusively for identification of a person and would not be used to extract any other information.
  • Strict confidentiality in safekeeping of records of DNA profiles and their use.
  • Violation of confidentiality would be liable for punishment of imprisonment, which may extend up to three years and also fine which may extend to Rs 2 lakh.
DNA Profiling Board
The bill drafted by the commission proposed setting up of a statutory DNA Profiling Board which would lay down procedures and standards for establishment of DNA laboratories, supervise their functioning and frame guidelines for training police and other investigating agencies dealing with DNA-related matters.
What do you understand by DNA Profiling? Critically examine the concerns raised against India’s DNA profiling Bill and comment if they are valid. (200 Words)
DNA profiling is a technique which is used to identify individuals by the characteristics of their DNA. A DNA profile is a small set of DNA sequences that are likely to be different in the unrelated individuals. So, this profile is used for identification of related individuals. This can help in verification of missing persons and unidentified bodies, investigation of crimes, maintaining database of convicts and research work.
But In light of the DNA profiling bill, several concerns are expressed:
  • Very private information can be collected and misused.
  • As it is a cumbersome process, it will further slowdown the justice delivery in India
  • Errors in testing can result in false convictions and punishments.
  • It also has a controversial clause of taking samples from intimate parts of living persons.
  • The clause relating to pedigree may lead to racial and communal profiling.
  • The scope of the bill is too wide as it has allowed the use of DNA data even in civil cases like abortion, paternity disputes etc. will make the database to be too large to be of any use.
Although this technique is being used in western countries successfully and also there is a provision of penalty for misuse of data in the current bill, but the bill already provides so many overreaching powers to the authorities. Thus, the above concerns are genuine and the bill should provide for adequate safeguards to address the above issues.

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