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DNA Technology Regulation Bill, 2019

DNA Technology Regulation Bill

On July 8, 2019, Mr. Harsh Vardhan, the Minister for Science and Technology, introduced the DNA Technology Regulation Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha. This bill aims to regulate the use of DNA technology for identifying specific individuals. It’s worth noting that Lok Sabha introduced a similar bill back in August 2018, but unfortunately, it lapsed.

Key Highlights of Proposed Bill

Purpose: This law enables law enforcement to gather DNA samples, create DNA profiles, and establish special databases for criminal investigations. It strictly limits the use of DNA data solely for identification purposes and prohibits any other use.

DNA Profiling Board: We’ve set up a DNA Profiling Board (DPB) as the top authority for approving state-level DNA databases, endorsing DNA collection and analysis methods, and enforcing accreditation and regulation for DNA labs.

DNA Banks: The government is empowered to establish DNA data banks nationwide to store profiles. These banks will maintain a comprehensive database to aid in the identification of victims, suspects, missing persons, and unidentified human remains.

Penalties: Individuals found leaking information stored in these facilities or attempting to access DNA profiles illegally can face imprisonment of up to 3 years and fines up to Rs. 1 lakh.

Use of DNA Data: DNA testing is only permissible for specific matters outlined in the schedule to the Bill, such as offenses under the Indian Penal Code, paternity suits, or identifying abandoned children.

DNA Data Bank: The Bill mandates the creation of a National DNA Data Bank and regional DNA Data Banks for each state or group of states. These banks will store DNA profiles received from laboratories and categorize data for various purposes including crime scene investigation, suspect identification, and missing persons.

Protection of Information: The Bill emphasizes the protection of DNA data from misuse or abuse, ensuring citizens’ privacy rights. Access to information in the Data Bank is restricted to one-time keyboard searches to compare DNA samples without including the sample data in the index.

Retention of DNA Data: Regulations will specify criteria for entry, retention, or removal of DNA profiles. However, provisions allow for the removal of DNA data of certain individuals, such as suspects after a police report or court order, or on request from individuals not involved in a crime.

DNA Laboratories: Laboratories conducting DNA testing must obtain accreditation from the Board and adhere to quality assurance standards. The Board has the authority to revoke accreditation for non-compliance, with provisions for appeal.

Obligations of DNA Laboratories: DNA labs have to meet quality standards, store DNA samples in the Data Bank, and either give biological samples back to investigators or dispose of them when needed.

Benefits of the Bill

  • This Bill aims to make it mandatory for DNA laboratories to undergo accreditation and regulation. This ensures that as DNA technology becomes more widespread in our country, there are standards in place for its use.
  • The goal is to guarantee that DNA test results can be trusted. Citizens should have confidence that the data produced by these tests are accurate and reliable.
  • Additionally, the Bill aims to protect the privacy rights of our citizens. It seeks to prevent the misuse or abuse of DNA data, ensuring that personal information remains secure and confidential.

DNA technology – Significance and Concerns

DNA analysis is an extremely useful and accurate technology in ascertaining the identity of a person from his/her DNA sample, or establishing biological relationships between individuals.

  • When investigators find hair or bloodstains at a crime scene, they can match them to a suspect’s DNA. This helps them determine if the suspect was present. It’s also used to identify unknown bodies or establish parentage.
  • DNA analysis reveals more than just physical traits like eye or skin color. It can also uncover personal details like allergies or disease susceptibility.

Challenges with the bill

  • The proposed law overlooks the serious ethical concerns surrounding the establishment of a national DNA database. It also mistakenly treats DNA as flawless, believing it can solve all the problems within the criminal justice system.
  • This legislation fails to acknowledge the disproportionate nature of the DNA bank it aims to create and the intrusive extent of its powers.
  • It confuses its objectives by allowing DNA evidence collection not only for criminal investigations but also for resolving civil disputes.
  • When authorities accuse and arrest someone for a serious offense, such as one punishable by death or lengthy imprisonment, they can obtain DNA samples without the individual’s consent. However, in other cases, a magistrate can order a person to provide DNA if they believe it’s necessary to establish guilt. This gives the state significant power over individuals’ genetic information.
  • Despite the recognition of a fundamental Right to Privacy by the court, it remains uncertain if this bill respects that right.
  • The bill lacks adequate safeguards against the misuse of DNA evidence collected unlawfully, making the entire process alarming.
  • The bill’s schedule permits the use of DNA profiling in civil matters, including issues related to identifying individuals. However, it doesn’t clarify if it intends to regulate DNA testing done in medical or research labs.
  • DNA laboratories must share DNA data with the government’s DNA banks. However, it’s unclear whether these banks will also store DNA profiles for civil matters, which could potentially infringe on privacy rights.
  • Although the bill outlines procedures for removing DNA profiles from the data banks, it doesn’t mandate DNA laboratories to delete profiles.

Way Forward

  • The government must justify the necessity of collecting DNA evidence, ensuring that the process respects individuals right to privacy without undue intrusion.
  • Implementing the law in its current state would simply empower the government’s surveillance apparatus further, which could pose a threat to personal freedoms.
  • Science and technology should not override the importance of safeguarding personal privacy against the potential risks associated with unrestricted access to intimate genetic information.
  • It’s crucial to prioritize maintaining strict confidentiality when storing DNA profiles and using them, respecting individuals’ privacy rights.

Read Also: Evaluating DNA report as Evidence 

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