The DNA Technology Regulation Bill, 2018

  • The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha.
  • The Bill provides for regulation of use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of certain persons.

Provisions of the bill:

  • Use of DNA Data:  Under the Bill, DNA testing is allowed only in respect of matters listed in the schedule to the Bill (such as, for offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, for paternity suits, or to identify abandoned children).
  • Permission for use of DNA Data:  While preparing a DNA profile, bodily substances of persons may be collected by the investigating authorities.  Authorities are required to obtain consent for collection in certain situations.  For arrested persons, authorities are required to obtain consent if the offence carries a punishment of up to seven years.
  • DNA Data Bank:  The Bill provides for the establishment of a National DNA Data Bank and regional DNA Data Banks, for every state, or two or more states.  The National Data Bank will store DNA profiles received from DNA laboratories and receive DNA data from the regional Banks.  Every Data Bank will be required to maintain indices for the following categories of data: (i) a crime scene index, (ii) a suspects’ or undertrials’ index, (iii) an offenders’ index, (iv) a missing persons’ index, and (v) an unknown deceased persons’ index.
  • Protection of information:  Under the Bill, the Board is required to ensure that all information relating to DNA profiles with the Data Banks, laboratories and other persons are kept confidential.  DNA data may only be used for identification of the person.
  • Retention of DNA Data:  The Bill states that the criteria for entry, retention or removal of the DNA profile will be specified by regulations.
  • DNA Regulatory Board:  The Bill provides for the establishment of a DNA Regulatory Board, which will supervise the DNA Data Banks and DNA Laboratories.  The Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, will be the ex officio Chairperson of the Board.  The Board will comprise an additional 12 members including: (i) an eminent person with at least 25 years’ experience in biological sciences, as the Vice Chairperson, and (ii) Director General of the National Investigation Agency and the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation or their nominees (of at least the rank of Joint Director).
  • DNA Laboratories:  Any laboratory undertaking DNA testing is required to obtain accreditation from the Board.  The Board may revoke the accreditation for reasons including, failure to: (i) undertake DNA testing, or (ii) comply with the conditions attached to the accreditation.  If the accreditation is revoked, an appeal will lie before the central government or any other authority notified by the central government.
  • Obligations of DNA Laboratories:  Under the Bill, every DNA laboratory is required to perform various functions, including: (i) following standards for quality assurance in collection, storing, testing, and analysis of DNA samples, and (ii) depositing DNA samples with the Data Bank.  After depositing the sample for ongoing cases, the Laboratory is required to return the biological sample to the investigating officer.  In all other cases, the sample must be destroyed and intimated to the concerned person.
  • Offences:  The Bill specifies penalties for various offences, including: (i) for disclosure of DNA information, or (ii) using DNA sample without authorization.  For instance, disclosure of DNA information will be punishable with imprisonment of up to three years and fine of up to one lakh rupees.

Criticism of the Bill:

  • The ‘right to privacy’ judgement, or Puttaswamy vs Union of India, held that all Indians enjoy a fundamental right to privacy. The judgement – which overruled verdicts given in the M.P. Sharma case of 1958 and the Kharak Singh case of 1961 – ruled that the right
  • To privacy is intrinsic to life and liberty and thus comes under Article 21 of the constitution.
  • While DNA profiling and testing have been used before in criminal investigations in India, the lack of proper infrastructure and technical know-how has restricted it from being used in a widespread or effective manner.
  • There are risks of contamination, risks in the chain of custody and risks in how the crime site is treated.
  • The estimated costs of setting up the infrastructure, collecting and storing the samples, and the accompanying operational costs could come up to Rs 3,000 crore. The Indian government, however, has maintained that the whole project will cost only Rs 20 crore.
  • Law enforcement techniques that involve the use of DNA technology often rely on the practice of ‘cold hits’, where DNA databases are searched even if there isn’t an investigative lead. This practice, combined with the reliabilities that come with DNA testing, prove to be deadly for already vulnerable populations (Dalit communities) that are at increased risk of police bias.
  • No provision has been made to safeguard, protect it. There is also no provision in the Bill on how long the government will get to store this sensitive data.
  • It is essential for the government to introduces a comprehensive Data Protection Law as soon as possible.
Share Socially