Tuesday 28 July 2015

DNA Profiling Bill

Why in news?
  • deadline for comments and suggestions extended owing to intense debate
What is DNA profiling?
  • Double-helix structure of DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid has two strands of small molecules twisted around each other carry biological information that is unique to every individual. 
  • Even a small part of this information can be used to uniquely identify a human being, except in the case of identical twins who have almost the same DNA sequence. DNA, in that sense, is similar to fingerprints or iris scans, but far more reliable and accurate. 
  • Also, it can be extracted from any part of the body, blood, bones or even a strand of hair, or clothing.
  • Getting data on DNA from some cells of any person is called DNA profiling
  • DNA is a mix of the DNA of the parents --> So, most accurate way of establishing parentage and biological relationships with immediate kin --> Used in N D Tiwari case. 
  • It is widely used as a tool in criminal investigation.
  • Useful in case of 
    • law enforcement, 
    • identification of missing persons, 
    • identification of dead bodies in disasters and accidents

What are the existing laws?
  • 1985: Indian courts accepted DNA as evidence in criminal investigation.
  • 2005: CrPC amended to use DNA profiling.
So why a separate bill?
  • The objective of the DNA Profiling Bill, 2015, is to establish a regulatory framework for DNA testing, and setting standards and guidelines for laboratories doing these tests.
    • In the absence of a legal framework, a database can't be prepared and maintained.
Details of the Bill:

The Hindu
  • The current bill provides for "a national database" of DNA profiles.
    • Which will be used for crime detection and 
    • as an evidence in judicial proceedings for admissibility of evidence.
  • DNA profiling in cases related to
    • murder
    • miscarriage (abortion),
    • dowry deaths
    • sexual assault
    • paternity suits
  • The DNA profile of an individual will be deleted if that person were to be acquitted after the trial.
  • Any misuse of data will carry a punishment of up to three years imprisonment and also fine.
Working of DNA Profiling
  • DNA testing is already in use. The proposed law will bring under legal regulation every activity relating to testing, storage and matching of DNA profiles.
  • The Bill seeks to create two new bodies — 
    • DNA Profiling Board (at National and State level) 
      • Act as the regulator, and supervise all activities relating to testing, storage and matching of DNA samples
    • DNA Data Bank
      • DNA profiles will have to be stored in the data bank. All regional or state-level data banks will share information with the national bank
  • All existing and new DNA labs will have to seek accreditation from the Board. 
  • Bill legalises collection and analysis of the DNA samples for
    • Repeat offenders,
    • suspects,
    • missing persons,
    • unknown deceased persons
    • “volunteers” for forensic purposes, to make the data bank more robust, and to generate the statistical parameters for establishing matches.
    • DNA samples of all convicts and chargesheeted individuals will be stored in the data banks. 
  • Samples collected from crime scenes will be stored too. In all other cases, like those to settle parentage, DNA samples can be only collected by consent. A convicted person can request DNA matching to help prove his innocence.
  • Issues of consent, 
  • Infallibility of DNA data 
  • Costs associated with setting up the database. 
  • There could be false matches, human error and cross-contamination during analysis.

The Debate

Difference Criticism Counter Argument
  1. DNA information can reveal details such as a person’s looks, eye colour or skin colour, as well as more intrusive information such as allergies, susceptibility to diseases, etc. but according to critics there arent enough safeguards against the collection and storage of such information, and its misuse.
  2. No provision to inform the person after deleting data in certain cases like when a missing child has been found
  3. Person who can access data not defined
  4. No guarantee that data will not be used for other than intended purpose

  1. apprehensions of data misuse and privacy violations were more likely to come true in the absence of regulation. Since DNA testing is already happening, it is better to have oversight over it. 
  2. Very limited information is proposed to be stored, just 17 sets of numbers out of billions, that can tell nothing about the individual except to act as a unique identifier. 
  3. DNA will be collected from a very small proportion of people, mainly those “in conflict of law”. 
  4. An Aadhaar-like project to create a DNA profile of everyone is not proposed. 
  5. Every care has been taken to prevent misuse of data.

  1. DNA matching technology is not entirely foolproof, and that there are chances, even if very low, of erroneous results.

  1. Except in the case of identical twins, there is no doubt over the reliability of DNA fingerprinting as a tool to identify human beings

  1. It has been argued that adding larger numbers of entries to the data bank does not lead to better conviction rates. 
  2. In the UK, convictions dropped in the year in which the most DNA profiles were created. 
  3. DNA profiles, critics say, should be created only in cases of serious crimes.

  1. We need to move from eyewitness evidence to forensic evidence, of which DNA is an integral part. 
  2. Currently, we do not have the resources to do more than 1,000 DNA tests in a year. 
  3. Based on the government’s crime figures, it is estimated that DNA testing could be of use in almost 100,000 cases. 
  4. The proposed law would help create the infrastructure, including trained manpower

[CONTRIBUTED BY: Sh. Chandan Kumar Ji]


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