The Union Cabinet has approved a bill that allows law enforcement agencies to collect DNA samples, create “DNA profiles” and special databanks for forensic-criminal investigations. It will be introduced in parliament during the Monsoon Session beginning July 18.
The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018, is the latest version of a bill that originated as a DNA “profiling” Bill, framed by the Department of Biotechnology under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology. The bill is meant to “expand the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.” The announcement further makes assurances that the DNA test results are “reliable” and the data remain “protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.” The bill will enable cross-matching the DNA of a missing person or an unidentified body with that of their family members and also to establish the identity of victims of mass disasters.
In May, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court disposed of a PIL filed by the Lokniti Foundation to address the issue of thousands of unclaimed dead bodies reported annually, and for the maintenance of DNA profiles of the dead bodies, before their disposal, to aid in their identification by family members. At the time, the bench was also informed that a Human DNA Profiling Bill had been amended in accordance with the Aadhaar scheme.
The aim of the original draft legislation was to institute a mechanism to collect and deploy DNA technologies to identify persons based on samples collected from crime scenes or for identifying missing persons. In August 2017, the Law Commission of India submitted a report to the Center, claiming to have “thoroughly examined” the draft bill. Some of the recommendations were:
- Setting up of a DNA profiling board to undertake to establish DNA laboratories and granting accreditation to such laboratories.
DNA profiling would be undertaken exclusively for identification of a person and would not be used to extract any other information.
Setting up of National DNA Data Bank, and Regional DNA Data Banks for the States, to be established by the Central Government. The Data Banks will be responsible for storing DNA profiles received from the accredited laboratories and maintaining certain indices for various categories of data, like crime scene index, suspects’ index, offenders’ index, missing persons’ index and unknown deceased persons’ index.
Maintenance of strict confidentiality with regard to the keeping of records of DNA profiles and their use.
The violators of the provisions would be liable for punishment of imprisonment, which may extend up to three years and also fine which may extend up to Rs.2 lakhs.
The knowledge of such a bill being formulated first came to notice in September 2014, when the Department of Biotechnology filed an affidavit in the SC stating that it is piloting a human DNA profiling Bill, the objective of which is to establish a National DNA Data Bank, a DNA Profiling Board and the use of DNA profiles.