It’s been year back in European countries that the information relevant is only withdrawn from the DNA of the person rather than disclosing overall genes. But it’s in India does not have a data protection law and 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 legislation is already being followed.

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India has been attempting for several years to pass legislation on use of DNA technology to “support and strengthen the justice delivery system”. Last week, the Union Cabinet approved the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018. Last week, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that it was preparing to finalize a fresh version of the DNA Fingerprinting Bill, a draft of which was ready in 2015 but could not be introduced in Parliament. Also, last week, the Law Commission of India released a revised draft of the Bill that is now called The DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017 with some very important changes.

The proposed law, which has been in the making since 2003, seeks to establish regulatory institutions and standards for DNA testing, and supervise the activities of all laboratories authorised to carry out such tests.

The Bill seeks to set up two new institutions — a DNA Profiling Board and a DNA Data Bank. 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.

The new Bill has also removed a provision that allowed DNA profiles in the databank to be used for “creation and maintenance of population statistics databank”.

While the penalty for misuse of data remains a prison term of up to three years and a fine up to Rs 1 lakh, a reference to a minimum prison term of one month has been removed.

DNA analysis is an extremely useful and accurate technology in ascertaining the identity of a person from his/her DNA sample, or establishing biological relationships between individuals. A hair sample, or even bloodstains from clothes, from a scene of crime, for example, can be matched with that of a suspect, and it can, in most cases, be conclusively established whether the DNA in the sample belongs to the suspected individual. As a result, DNA technology is being increasingly relied upon in investigations of crime, identification of unidentified bodies, or in determining parentage.

What the Bill proposes

The Bill seeks to set up two new institutions — a DNA Profiling Board and a DNA Data Bank. 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.

A national databank of DNA profiles is proposed to be set up, along with regional databanks in every state, or one for two or more states, as required. In the 2015 draft, the national databank was proposed to be set up at Hyderabad, possibly because the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, the premier DNA laboratory, is located there. 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.


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