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Regulation of DNA profiling

As the debate on whether or not privacy is a fundamental right rages, the Law Commission has drafted a Bill on the use and regulation of human DNA profiling. 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.

The exercise was initiated by the Commission after the Department of Biotechnology forwarded its draft of ‘The Use and Regulation of DNA based Technology in Civil and Criminal Proceedings, Identification of Missing Persons and Human Remains Bill, 2016’ in September last year.

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.

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. They 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.

Sharing of DNA profiles with foreign governments or other government agencies, organisations or institutions would only be for the purpose of this Act or any of its agencies, including identification of missing persons, disaster victims, suspects. Any violation would lead to imprisonment, which may extend up to three years, and a fine which may extend up to ₹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.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 2:15:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/regulation-of-dna-profiling/article19372786.ece

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