Q. Why is this in news?
A. Recently a draft report of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology has flagged issues about DNA Bill, they say that the Bill that proposes DNA sampling and profiling of citizens accused of crime or reported missing and storing their unique genetic information for administrative purposes has some alarming provisions that could be misused for caste or community based profiling, they pointed out that DNA profiles can reveal extremely sensitive information of an individual such as pedigree, skin colour, behaviour, illness, health status and susceptibility to diseases.
Q. What are the Concerns Raised by the Committee?
Misuse of Sensitive Information:
- The DNA profiles can reveal extremely sensitive information of an individual such as family ancestry (pedigree), skin colour, behaviour, illness, health status and susceptibility to diseases.
- Access to such intrusive information can be misused to specifically target individuals and their families with their own genetic data.
- It could even be used to incorrectly link a particular caste/community to criminal activities.
Storage of DNA Profiles of Unconvicted Persons:
- The Bill proposes to store DNA profiles of suspects, undertrials, victims and their relatives for future investigations.
- The Bill also provides that DNA profiles for civil matters will also be stored in the data banks, but without a clear and separate index.
- The committee has questioned the necessity for storage of such DNA profiles, pointing out that this violates the fundamental right to privacy and does not serve any public purpose.
- The Bill refers to consent in several provisions, but in each of those, a magistrate can easily override consent, thereby in effect, making consent perfunctory.
- There is also no guidance in the Bill on the grounds and reasons of when the magistrate can override consent.
Removal of DNA Profiles of Accused:
- The Bill permits retention of DNA found at a crime scene in perpetuity, even if conviction of the offender has been overturned.
- The committee has recommended that independent scrutiny must be done of the proposals to destroy biological samples and remove DNA profiles from the database.
Absence of Robust Data Protections
- The committee has also called the Bill “premature” and questioned the security of a huge number of DNA profiles that will be placed with the National DNA Data bank and its regional centres.
Q. What are various provisions of DNA Bill?
- The Bill provides for the establishment of a National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data Banks for states.
- DNA laboratories are required to share DNA data with the National and Regional DNA Data Banks.
- Every Data Bank will be required to maintain indices for the following categories of data-
- a crime scene index
- a suspects’ or undertrials’ index
- an offenders’ index
- a missing persons’ index
- an unknown deceased persons’ index
- It aims to store the unique genetic information for administrative purposes.
- It also 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 and the additional members will be-
- experts in the field of biological sciences
- Director General of the National Investigation Agency
- Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation