DNA Bill faulted for inadequate protection

DNA Bill faulted for inadequate protection

Panel recommends that it should ensure right to privacy to individuals

A government-appointed committee has underlined several loopholes in a controversial bill that seeks to legalise DNA profiling in the country, recommending that the proposed legislation must ensure the right to privacy of the individuals.

The bill, piloted by the department of Biotechnology, ministry of Science and Technology, intends to legalise the collection and analysis of DNA samples of offenders or suspects of crimes, missing persons, unknown deceased, and ‘volunteers’ for forensic purposes.

It also provides for the creation of a centralized national database of DNA profiles, setting up of a DNA profiling board, and sharing of criminals’ DNA profiles with other countries to tackle terrorism.

Analysing the bill from the privacy perspective, the group of experts, headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi Court AP Shah, stated in its report on right of privacy that the purpose of collecting and processing DNA samples and personal information of an individual “must be clear and specific”, and the proposed law may then extend to meet the stated purpose.

“Only information relevant and necessary for the stated purpose should be collected,” the panel said in its report, submitted to the Planning commission on Thursday.

Cases where the DNA sample of an individual of an individual is done with consent and cases where the DNA sample is collected without consent, such as from a crime scene, should be distinguished.

The Bill should require that the individuals should be informed through notice of the DNA sample collection before or after it has been done.

They should also be apprised with the purpose and use of the collection of their DNA sample and other information.

Such persons should also be made aware of the processes available for them to access and correct their own personal information.

The proposed law should specify that only DNA samples and additional personal information specified under the Act can be collected, after when applicable notice has been given, and consent taken.

It should provide that if a breach occurs or there is a possibility that a sample was contaminated, affected individuals must be given notice.  If a DNA profile is legally accessed, the affected individual should be given notice after the investigation is closed, the panel suggested. The panel found that proposal to allow profiling of DNA samples of volunteers conflicting.” The DNA data bank has additionally been entitled to hold indices of volunteers.

However, no procedure for requirement of consent, etc. has been provided, and no mechanism has been provided for volunteers to withdraw their information if they desire,” it pointed out.

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