DNA Technology Regulation Bill, 2019 : Concerns

DNA Bill, 2019:

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change has recommended that the government should address the concerns raised over the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019, including over creation of a national databank of crime scene DNA profiles and fears of communities being targeted.

  • While the Bill speaks of regional databanks apart from a central one, the Parliamentary Standing Committee strongly recommends only one National Data Bank, to minimise chances of misuse of data.

DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 (Key Provisions):

  • The Bill allows the use of the technology to establish the identity of persons in matters of crime, parentage dispute, emigration or immigration, and transplantation of human organs.
  • It provides for the establishment of national and regional DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) data banks and each databank will maintain the crime scene index, suspects’ or undertrials’ index, and offenders’ index separately.
  • The Bill talks of a DNA Regulatory Board that would advise the Centre and state governments on issues such as setting up of DNA laboratories and databanks; and laying down of guidelines, standards and procedures for the same.

Concerns Raised by the Committee:

  • The risk with a national databank of crime scene DNA profiles is that it will likely include virtually everyone since DNA is left at the ‘crime scene’ before and after the crime by several persons who may have nothing to do with the crime being investigated.
  • The DNA profiling to be done under this Bill can be misused to target different segments of the society based on factors like religion, caste or political views. DNA profiling is the process where a specific DNA pattern, called a profile, is obtained from a person or sample of bodily tissue.
  • The Bill proposes to store DNA profiles of suspects, undertrials, victims, and their relatives for future investigations.
  • The Bill also provides that DNA profiles for civil matters will also be stored in the data banks, but without a clear and separate index.
  • The committee has questioned the necessity for the storage of such DNA profiles, pointing out that this violates the fundamental right to privacy and does not serve any public purpose.
  • The Bill refers to consent in several provisions, but in each of those, a magistrate can easily override consent, thereby in effect, making consent perfunctory.
  • There is also no guidance in the Bill on the grounds and reasons of when the magistrate can override consent.
  • It has questioned the security of a huge number of DNA profiles that will be placed with the National DNA Data bank.

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