DNA Technology Regulation Bill 2018 UPSC – Features,Objective,- IAS Mains -The Union Cabinet has approved The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill 2018.
Key features of the Bill
- It allows law enforcement agencies to collect DNA samples, create “DNA profiles” and special databanks for forensic-criminal investigations.
- It states that all DNA data, including DNA samples, DNA profiles and records, will be only used for identification of the person and not for any other purpose.
- It creates DNA Profiling Board (DPB) that will be the final authority that will authorise the creation of State-level DNA databanks, approve the methods of collection and analysis of DNA-technologies.
- It makes accreditation and regulation mandatory for DNA laboratories.
- It allows the government to set up DNA databanks across India to store profiles.
- These banks will maintain a national database for identification of victims, accused, suspects, undertrials, missing persons and unidentified human remains.
- It also empowers the government to impose a jail term of up to 3 years and fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh on those who leak information stored in such facilities.
- It prescribes similar punishment for those who seek information on DNA profiles illegally.
The objective of the Bill
- Forensic DNA profiling helps in offences categorized as affecting the human body and those against property. It includes murder, rape, human trafficking, or grievous hurt and theft, burglary, dacoity.
- National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) put the number of such crimes in excess of 3 lakhs per year. Of these, only a very small proportion is being subjected to DNA testing at present.
- The primary purpose of the Bill is thus to expand the application of DNA-based forensic technologies.
DNA Profiling Board
- The Board, with 11 members, is supposed to be the regulatory authority that will grant accreditation to DNA laboratories and lay down guidelines, standards and procedures for their functioning.
- It will advise central and state governments on “all issues relating to DNA laboratories”.
- It will also be the authority to make recommendations on ethical and human rights, including privacy, issues related to DNA testing.
DNA Data Bank
- A national databank of DNA profiles is proposed to be set up, along with regional databanks in every state
- The new draft does not specify the location of the national databank. All regional DNA databanks will be mandated to share their information with the national databank.
- Certain DNA Profiling Board-accredited labs would be authorised to carry out DNA testing and analysis. These are the only places to which DNA samples, picked up from a crime scene can be referred for analysis
- Data from the analyses will need to be shared with the nearest regional DNA databank which will store it and share it with the national databank.
- The databanks will maintain five sets of databases — for DNA samples picked up from crime scenes, for suspects or undertrials, and for offenders, missing persons, and unidentified dead bodies.
Significance of Bill
- Bill will ensure that with proposed expanded use of DNA profiling technology in the country, there will be also assurance that DNA test results are reliable and data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.
- It will also ensure speedier justice delivery and increased conviction rate.
- It will also enable cross-matching between persons who have been reported missing on one hand and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country on other, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.
- It will set in place, an institutional mechanism to collect and deploy DNA technologies to identify persons based on samples collected from crime scenes or for identifying missing persons.
- The aggregate incidence of such crimes in the country, as per the statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2016, is in excess of 3 lakhs per year.
- Of these, only a very small proportion is being subjected to DNA testing at present.
- It is expected that the expanded use of this technology in these categories of cases would result not only in speedier justice delivery but also in increased conviction rates, which at present is only around 30% (NCRB Statistics for 2016).
- The main issue is whether DNA technology is foolproof, and whether the proposed law adequately addresses the possibility of abuse.
- It has been argued that although DNA technology is the best method available to carry out this kind of identification, it is still probabilistic in nature.
- There are chances, however remote, that a wrong match is generated. If the DNA result is taken as the ultimate evidence, no recourse will be available to an individual who has been wrongly matched.
- More frequently asserted are the privacy-related objections. Questions such as whose DNA can be collected and under what circumstances, whether the consent of the individual is required, who can access the database, to what uses the DNA information can be put apart from identifying an individual, and the circumstances under which a record can be deleted, have been raised repeatedly.
- It has been pointed out that information like ancestry or susceptibility to a disease, or other genetic traits, is liable to be misused.
- It has also been argued that DNA tests have not led to an improvement in conviction rates in countries where it is already being followed.
- Privacy issue can be handled by adopting the best practices from the world. The Bill does not set a limit to how long someone’s DNA will keep on record. In countries like UK, DNA data of a recordable offence can be kept for only six year.
- The Law Commissions report related to scientific collection of data need to be incorporated.
- Maintenance of strict confidentiality with regard to keeping of records of DNA profiles and their use as recommended by Malimath report can be followed.
- Safeguard to prevent illegal collection and use of DNA data as stated by A. P. Shah Committee.
- Need for robust process and structure for collection of DNA samples from crime scene to the laboratory for analysis, to the DNA Bank for storage and comparison.
- Highlighting its key features, critically examine the DNA Technology Regulation Bill 2018. Suggest reforms, if any.