The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Science and Technology, Harsh Vardhan on JULY 8, 2019. The sole purpose of the bill was to create a legislative base for the use of revolutionary DNA technology for various forensic as well as investigative purposes in India.
The bill provides for the establishment of a DNA Regulatory Board, DNA data Banks on National and regional level, DNA laboratories and protection of information and penalties in case of violation of confidential informations.
What is DNA?
DNA which stands for ‘Deoxyribonucleic Acid’, is a data center of the building blocks of our body, the tiniest cells. It is a complex chain of molecules where all the specific information for the formation of particular cells are stored. These molecules inside cells contain the genetic information for the growth and function of an organism. The genetic information is carried by DNA, from generation one to the next.
DNA has a double helix like structure, made up of nucleotides. DNA is a nucleic acid, composed of a deoxyribose sugar, a phosphate group and a nitrogen base. Deoxyribose sugar with a phosphate group links the nucleotides together and forms each strand of DNA. Here nitrogenous bases are a group of Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Guanine (G) & Cytosine which resembles a twisted ladder.
DNA was first discovered by the Swiss biologist Johannes Friedrich Miescher in 1869. DNA fingerprinting, Mutation, Gene therapy, Replication processes are some important functions of DNA technology.
Features of DNA Technology Regulation Bill 2019
The 9 chapters bill was introduced to allow Law enforcement agencies and investigative bodies to collect DNA samples, for DNA profiling, and making DNA data banks specifically used for identification of persons and not for any other uses. Let’s know about the key features of the bill.
DNA Regulatory Board
As per the bill, a 12 member National DNA Regulatory body, headed by the Secretary of Biological department, is to be formed to advise, supervise and permit the establishment of DNA data Banks, DNA laboratories. Setting regulations, privacy protocols for DNA data and ensuring their proper execution, allowing the access of DNA data for investigation purposes are the main functions of the regulatory board.
DNA Data Banks
National DNA data Bank and Regional DNA data Banks are proposed to be formed by the bill. DNA profiles from DNA laboratories and regional data banks will be stored in the National DNA data bank. Data banks are required to create 5 indices to store DNA profiles; 1. A crime scene index, 2. A suspect’s or undertrial’s index, 3. An offender’s index, 4. A missing person’s index, 5. An unknown deceased person’s index.
Protection of Information
The board ensures the security and confidentiality of DNA profiles stored in the National DNA Data bank or DNA laboratories. The advanced security measures would be taken care of by the board for this purpose.
Offenses and Penalties
The bill has listed certain matters in which the investigation should be done by DNA testing. It also mentions penalties like fine up to Rs. 2 lakh and imprisonment of 5 years in case of using DNA samples without official permit, unlawful access of DNA data bank, destruction, alterations, contamination or tampering with biological evidence etc.
Need For The DNA Regulation Bill, 2019
Although DNA based evidence started to be admitted internationally in the 1990s, in India, there is no specific legislation for use of DNA data as evidence. Even in the Indian Evidence act 1872 and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, there is a lack of such provisions. The 2019 bill intends to provide for the regulations of use and application of DNA Technology to fulfill the purposes of establishing identity of certain types of persons including the victims, offender’s, suspect’s, undertrials, missing etc.
DNA Technique in Judicial Arena
The Malimath committee report, 2003 suggested that forensic evidence should also be given weightage while balancing the scale of evidence. Also the Orissa High Court’s case of Thogorani Alias K. Damyanti 2004 has held the, ‘DNA evidence is now a predominant forensic technique for identifying criminals when biological tissues are left at the scene of crime. Such testing not only helps to convict but also serves to exonerate.’
DNA Regulation bill 2019, isn’t converted into law as it’s still under consideration due to certain privacy threats.
Concerns Relating DNA Bill 2019
Issues with the bill can be understood in the following points.
- The Standing Committee of Parliament states, “the risk with a National data Bank of crime scene DNA profile is that it will likely include virtually everything since DNA left at the crime scene before and after the crime by several persons who may have nothing to do with the crime being investigated.”
- Another major concern is the violation of privacy. By using DNA data, important information viz. disease, allergies, genetic behavior, and even Advent diseases could be detected, misuse of which, certainly is a matter of concern.
- Also, as the nature of work is technical the bill has neglected the training part of these persons who will operate such DNA Data Banks.
- Another major concern is of consent under clause 21 stating that no bodily substances shall be taken from the person who is arrested for an offense without his consent in the writing for taking the same, however there are some exceptions too in some cases.
- The DNA Bill does not possess standard data safety protocols per say the rule 3 of Information Technology rules 2011.
All these points need to be considered, to fulfill the legislative objectives of the DNA Data Regulation bill, 2019.