DNA TECHNOLOGY (USE AND APPLICATION) REGULATION BILL

FEB 12

Mains   > Polity   >   Executive   >   Criminal justice system

WHY IN NEWS:

  • Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, recently, in a draft report, pointed out that some of the provisions in the DNA Technology Bill could be misused in different ways.

PURPOSE OF THE BILL:

  • The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Lok Sabha.
  • The bill which is also known as the DNA profiling bill, tries to check use of DNA technology to establish the identity of a person.
  • According to the government, the DNA technology bill aims to establish the identity of missing persons, victims, offenders, under trials and unknown deceased persons.

PROVISIONS:

  • Use of DNA Data:
    • Under the Bill, DNA testing is allowed only in respect of matters listed in the Schedule to the Bill.
    • These include offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and for civil matters such as paternity suits.
    • Further, the Schedule 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.
  • Removal of DNA profiles:
    • It also provides for the removal of DNA profiles of suspects on the filing of a police report or court order, and of undertrials on the basis of a court order
  • DNA Data Bank:
    • The Bill provides for the establishment of a National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data Banks, for every state, or two or more states.
    • DNA laboratories are required to share DNA data prepared by them with the National and Regional DNA Data Banks.
  • DNA Regulatory Board:
    • The Bill provides for the establishment of a DNA Regulatory Board, which will supervise 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 from NIA, CBI etc.
  • Functions of the Board:
    • Advising governments on all issues related to establishing DNA laboratories or Data Banks
    • Granting accreditation to DNA laboratories.
    • Ensuring that all information relating to DNA profiles with the Data Banks, laboratories, and other persons are kept confidential.
  • Offences:
    • The Bill specifies penalties for various offences, including for disclosure of DNA information or using DNA sample without authorization

CONCERNS:

  • Violation of fundamental rights:
    • DNA profiling bill is a violation of human rights as it could compromise with the privacy of the individuals
  • Misuse of sensitive information:
    • The DNA profiles can reveal extremely sensitive information of an individual such as family ancestry, skin colour, behaviour, illness, health status and susceptibility to diseases.
  • Target certain communities:
    • It could even be used to incorrectly link a particular caste/community to criminal activities.
  • Storage of DNA Profiles of un-convicted Persons:
    • The Bill proposes to store DNA profiles of suspects, undertrials, victims and their relatives for future investigations.
    • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology has questioned the necessity for storage of such DNA profiles, pointing out that this violates the fundamental right to privacy and does not serve any public purpose.
  • Perfunctory consent:
    • 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.
  • Removal of DNA Profiles of accused:
    • The Bill permits retention of DNA found at a crime scene in perpetuity, even if conviction of the offender has been overturned.
  • Absence of data protection framework:
    • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology has questioned the security of a huge number of DNA profiles that will be placed with the National DNA Data bank and its regional centers.

WAY FORWARD:

  • Independent scrutiny:
    • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology has recommended that independent scrutiny must be done of the proposals to destroy biological samples and remove DNA profiles from the database.
  • Adoption of data protection legislation:
    • Prior adoption of a privacy or data protection bill would allow individuals some recourse if their rights were not protected
  • Need for a cost-benefit analysis:
    • The government also needs to do a cost-benefit analysis as creating large databases is often not a cost-effective way to solve more crimes, and limited resources must be targeted effectively.
  • Prerequisites:
    • Using DNA effectively during criminal investigations requires proper crime scene examination, trained and reliable policing, a trusted chain of custody of samples, reliable analysis, and proper use of expert evidence in court.
    • Without these prerequisites, a DNA database will exacerbate rather than solve problems in the criminal justice system
  • Privacy protection:
    • The Act need provisions to restrict DNA profiling so that it uses only non-coding DNA, a commonly used international standard for one, which prevents the use of parts of the DNA which code for personal characteristics, including medical conditions.
  • Separation of data banks:
    • Separate data banks have to maintained for civil and criminal matters

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. Discuss the challenges associated with the use of technology in criminal justice system with special reference to the provisions of DNA Technology Regulation Bill?