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The Parliamentary Committee flags concerns over DNA Bill

According to a draft report of the parliamentary standing committee on science and technology, the Bill that proposes DNA sampling and profiling of citizens has some alarming provisions that could be misused
The Parliamentary Committee flags concerns over DNA BillThe committee headed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has been scrutinizing the DNA Bill.

The Bill allows DNA sampling and profiling of citizens accused of crime or reported missing and storing their unique genetic information for administrative purposes.

The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Act, 2019, has been in the works for 15 years now. 

Many countries have enacted similar legislation with the U.S. bringing in a law as far back as in 1994.

Issue :

  • DNA profiles of an individual containing sensitive information such as pedigree, skin colour, behaviour, illness, etc, can be misused to specifically target individuals and their families with their own genetic data. 
  • Can target a particular community: This is particularly worrying as the sensitive information could be used to incorrectly link a particular caste/community to criminal activities
  • The Bill proposes to store DNA profiles of suspects, undertrials, victims and their relatives for future investigations. 
  • Though this will help in identifying repeat offenders, this may pose a threat to an individual’s privacy.
  • If a person is arrested for an offence carrying up to seven years imprisonment, investigation authorities must take the person’s written consent before taking the DNA sample. 
  • But a magistrate can easily override consent. The bill is silent on grounds and reasons when the magistrate can override consent.
  • The Bill permits retention of DNA even if conviction of the offender has been overturned. 
  •  As in the absence of robust data protection legislation, the security of DNA profiles placed with the National DNA Data bank and its regional centres is questionable.

Way ahead :

  • To enable identification of missing children: As per the National Crime Records Bureau, annually 1,00,000 children go missing. 
  • Help in identifying unidentified deceased: Including disaster victims and apprehend repeat offenders for heinous crimes such as rape and murder. 
  • Expand DNA testing in India: Which is currently being done on an extremely limited scale in India (only 2-3% of the total need). 
  • Will help in monitoring and regulating the standards of the laboratories.