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DNA profiling and the DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017 [Mains Article]

DNA analysis offers substantial information which if misused or used improperly may cause serious harm to individuals and the society as a whole. Thus, a need has long been felt to have a special legislation to regulate human DNA profiling.
By IT's Mains Roundup Team
July 30, 2017

Contents

  • Why in news?
  • What is DNA profiling?
  • DNA profiling and Privacy issue
  • Need for regulation of DNA profiling
  • Key features of the bill
  • Conclusion

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GS (M) Paper-2: “Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.”
GS (M) Paper-3: “Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.”

 

Why in news?

  • The Law Commission of India recently submitted its 271st report titled “Human DNA Profiling – A Draft Bill for the Use and Regulation of DNA Based technology” to the Government.
  • The report claims to have “thoroughly examined” the draft of the use and regulation of DNA based Technology in Civil and Criminal proceedings, identification of missing persons.
  • The 271st report of the Commission has prepared the draft Bill named ‘The DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017’ after examining various judicial pronouncements and constitutional provisions.

 

What is DNA profiling?

  • DNA profiling is a forensic technique used for identification of individuals by the characteristics of their DNA.

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  • It is also called as DNA fingerprinting, DNA testing or DNA typing.
  • Like fingerprints, a DNA profiling is a small set of DNA variations that is very likely to be different in all unrelated individuals.
  • DNA profiling was first developed and used in 1984 for parentage testing and criminal investigation to identify a person or to place a person at a crime scene. These techniques are now employed globally in forensic science to facilitate police detective work and help clarify paternity and immigration disputes.
  • DNA profiling technology, which is based on proven scientific principles, has been found to be very effective for social welfare, particularly, in enabling the Criminal Justice Delivery System to identify the offenders.

 

DNA profiling and Privacy issue

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  • The Commission records that DNA profiling is used for disaster victim identification, investigation of crimes, identification of missing persons and human remains and for medical research purposes. It notes that privacy concerns and the ethics involved in this scientific collection of data are very serious.
  • The Commission notes that the question whether privacy is an integral part of the right to personal liberty is still under consideration of the Supreme Court.
  • However, it also makes the point that the procedure for DNA profiling, if given statutory recognition, should be as per constitutional provisions.

 

Need for regulation of DNA profiling

  • In view of the scope of the use and misuse of human DNA profiling, it has been felt that it is required to be regulated by a special law with well delineated standards, quality controls and quality assurance systems to ensure the credibility of the DNA testing, restricting it to the purposes laid down in the Act.
  • Thus, there is a need to regulate the use of human DNA profiling through a standalone law of Parliament so that such use is appropriately regulated and restricted to lawful purposes only.

 

Key features of the bill

  • Primarily, the Bill provides for the setting up of a statutory DNA Profiling Board to spell out procedures and standards to establish DNA laboratories.
  • The Commission’s draft Bill restricts DNA profiling to the specific purpose of identification of a person and not for extracting other information.
  • It provides for the creation of DNA data banks, at national and regional levels, which would be responsible for storing DNA profiles received from the accredited laboratories.
  • These DNA data banks will also be responsible for maintaining certain indices, like crime scene index, suspects’ index, offenders’ index, missing persons’ index and unknown deceased persons’ index.
  • DNA experts would be notified as government scientific experts.
  • With a view to assist the kith and kin of missing persons, provisions have been made for proper identification of missing persons on the basis of their bodily samples/substances.
  • Maintenance of strict confidentiality with regard to keeping of records of DNA profiles and their use.
  • Sharing of DNA profiles with and by foreign Government or Government organisation or Government institutions or any of its agencies, for the purpose of this Act.
  • Any violation would lead to imprisonment, which may extend up to three years, and a fine which may extend up to Rs. 2 lakh.
  • The Bill gives the right to an undertrial to request for another DNA test in case of doubts that his earlier samples may have been contaminated.

 

Conclusion:

DNA analysis offers substantial information which if misused or used improperly may cause serious harm to individuals and the society as a whole. Thus, a need has long been felt to have a special legislation to regulate human DNA profiling.

 

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