The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019

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The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019

The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 was announced in Lok Sabha by the Ministry for Science and Technology, on July 8, 2019. The Bill provides for the regulation of the use of DNA technology to establish the identity of victims, offenders, and missing persons under trials and unknown deceased persons. In 2016, Andhra Pradesh became the first state in India to start DNA profiling to stop crimes.

Features of the bill

Use of DNA Data Under the Bill, DNA testing is permitted only in respect of matters mentioned in the Schedule to the Bill. These include offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and for civil matters such as paternity suits. The Schedule further includes DNA testing for matters related to establishment of individual identity.
Collection of DNA While preparing a DNA profile, bodily substances of persons may be collected by the investigating authorities. Authorities are required to obtain consent for collection in certain situations. For arrested persons, authorities are required to get written consent if the offence carries a punishment of up to seven years. If the offence carries more than seven years of imprisonment or death, consent is not required. Further, if the person is a victim, or a minor or disabled person, or relative of a missing person, the authorities are required to obtain the written consent of such victim, relative, parent, or guardian of the minor or disabled person. If consent is not given in these cases, the authorities can approach a Magistrate who may order the taking of bodily substances of such persons.
DNA Data Bank The Bill provides for the establishment of a
  • Regional DNA Data Banks for every state.
  • National DNA Data Bank
DNA laboratories are required to share DNA data prepared by them with the National and Regional DNA Data Banks. Every Data Bank will be required to maintain indices for the following categories of data:
  • a missing persons’ index,
  • a crime scene index,
  • an offenders’ index,
  • a suspects’ or undertrials’ index,
  • an unknown deceased persons’ index.
Removal of DNA profiles The Bill defines that the criteria for entry, removal or retention of the DNA profile will be specified by regulations. However, the Bill provides for removal of the DNA profiles of the following persons:
  • of a suspect if a police report is filed/lodged or court order given,
  • of an undertrial if a court order is given,
  • on written request, for persons who are not a suspect, undertrial or offender, from the crime scene or missing persons’ index.
DNA Regulatory Board The Bill provides for the establishment of a DNA Regulatory Board, which will run the DNA Data Banks and DNA laboratories. The Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, will be the ex-officio Chairperson of the Board. The Board will comprise additional members including:
  • professionals in the field of biological sciences,
  • Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Director General of the National Investigation Agency.
Functions of the Board The functions of the Board include:
  • advising governments on all issues related to establishing DNA laboratories or Data Banks,
  • granting certification to DNA laboratories.
Further, the Board is required to ensure that all information relating to DNA profiles with the laboratories, Data Banks, and other persons are kept confidential.
DNA laboratories Any laboratory undertaking DNA testing is required to obtain accreditation from the Board. The Board may annul the accreditation for reasons including, failure to:
  • undertake DNA testing, or comply with the conditions attached to the accreditation
If the accreditation is annulled, an appeal will lie before the central government or any other authority is informed by the central government. Further, every DNA laboratory is required to follow standards for quality assurance in the analysis and storing of DNA samples. After depositing the DNA profile for criminal cases, the laboratory is required to return the biological sample to the investigating officer. In all other cases, the sample must be destroyed.
Offences The Bill specifies penalties for various offences, including:
  • using DNA sample without authorization.
  • for disclosure of DNA information,
For example, disclosure of DNA information will be punishable with imprisonment of up to three years and fine of up to one lakh rupees.

Objective of the Bill

  • Expanding the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.
  • Assurance that the DNA test results are reliable, and the data remain protected from misuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.
  • The development of uniform code of practices in all laboratories involved in DNA testing throughout the country

Benefits

  • The DNA profiling used for investigations of crime, disaster victim identification, identification of missing persons, and human remains, and also for medical research purposes.
  • DNA profiles taken from the place of crime can be matched with the samples of criminals arrested even after several years. So help to nab criminals.
  • Individual privacy is ensured as the custodian of the databank will not release any information without a formal requisition. There are a least chance of any misuse.
  • The identification of parents is also possible with the use of the DNA profiling.
  • The DNA pattern will be kept in the DNA bank and that will be used whenever needed for any purpose in police interest, national interest, or forensic interest.

Criticisms

  • Criticized by civil society members and non-government organizations for not addressing the privacy concerns and this is infringement of human rights.
  • Inadequate data security safeguards and data prone to theft and may use for commercial gains
  • The Supreme Court has recognized the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right.
  • It will be used not only in the settlement of criminal cases but also in civil matters like using DNA profiling in matters such as maternity or paternity check, surrogacy, organ transplantation and immigration.

Recommendations

  • At the time when a person’s DNA is taken, the name of officer on duty should be clearly mentioned.
  • Before taking the DNA sample of an injured or the dead person, it is necessary to seek an opinion from the person or his family.
  • There should be a guarantee to keep the collection and investigation private. At the same time, proper maintenance should be ensured.

Useful information about DNA

  • DNA can be extracted from the hair, saliva, blood samples, any small amount of the tissues or muscles of a person, nail scraping.
  • DNA contains all of the information important to maintain and build an organism include biological information.
  • Although 99.9% of human DNA sequences are the same in every person, some of the DNA is unique that makes it possible to distinguish one individual from another.
  • DNA Profiling is the process of determining an individual characteristic and most commonly used as a forensic technology to recognize a person.