Lok Sabha nod to DNA bill

Last Updated 08 January 2019, 16:13 IST

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill seeking to create a DNA data bank for hardcore criminals and help the administration identify missing persons and disaster victims faster with the help of DNA fingerprinting technology.

The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha amid concerns voiced by several members, including Shashi Tharoor (Congress) voicing concern over privacy issues and objecting to passage of the draft legislation in the absence of a data protection law.

“We have ensured data privacy and security because it deals with DNA and data bank. The information stored in the data bank will not reveal any facial feature, racial data,” Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said responding to the two-hour debate on the Bill.

Seeking to allay apprehensions voiced by Tharoor, Harsh Vardhan said the privacy concerns over the bill were addressed during the UPA regime itself when the S&T Ministry was headed by an advocate.

The minister said the bill was first conceived in 2003 and since then several rounds of consultations have been held to improve it.

The original bill was modified following a review by the Law Commission. It's original title – Human DNA Profiling: A draft bill for the Use and Regulation of DNA-Based Technology – was changed on the basis of the Law Commission report. Several other changes were made.

The most important application of the legislation would be in the criminal justice system as it would allow the government to maintain a DNA database for the criminals convicted of heinous crimes. Over a period of time, the database is expected to lead to better justice delivery and improve conviction rate that currently stands at 30%.

The Bill provides for establishment of a National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data Banks. Every Data Bank will maintain the indices including crime scene index, suspects' or undertrials' index and offenders' index.

It also provides for establishment of a DNA regulatory board which would advice both the central and state governments “on all issues” relating to establishing of DNA laboratories and DNA data banks; laying down guidelines; standards and procedures for establishment and functioning of such laboratories and data banks.

The regulatory board will grant accreditation to laboratories for undertaking DNA testing, analyzing and various other activities in accordance with the provisions made in the bill.

According to provisions in the bill, written consent by individuals will be required to collect DNA samples from them. The consent would not be required from any individual for the offences with punishment of more than seven years of imprisonment or death.

The bill provides for the removal of DNA profiles of suspects on the filing of a police report or the order of the court. The DNA profiles of undertrials can also be removed from the data bank on the court’s order.

(Published 08 January 2019, 16:13 IST)

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