Lok Sabha Introduces Bill To Allow Use Of DNA Technology To Identity Persons 
A technician prepares a DNA sample at a GangaGen Inc. laboratory in Bengaluru, India. 9Photographer: Samyukta Lakshmi/Bloomberg)

Lok Sabha Introduces Bill To Allow Use Of DNA Technology To Identity Persons 

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A bill to allow use of DNA technology for establishing identity of certain persons, including victims, offenders and missing persons was introduced in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill,2018, was introduced by Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan in the Lower House, even as the Congress demanded that the bill be sent to the Standing Committee citing privacy concerns.

While moving the bill for consideration and passage, Vardhan said the bill would ensure that laboratories for DNA profiling are accredited and regulated and DNA data bank is set up.

“The issue of privacy, confidentiality and data protection has been taken care of very meticulously,” the minister said, adding the DNA profile will be stored only after obtaining consent except that of convicts and relatives of missing persons.

The bill would allow use of DNA technology for establishing identity of persons like victims, offenders, suspects, under trials, missing persons and unknown deceased persons.

The bill seeks to set up a DNA regulatory board to give accreditation to the laboratories and also frame guidelines.

Six ministries, including those of Home, Defence, MEA and Women and Child Welfare, as well as institutions like the Central Bureau of Investigation and National Investigation Agency would benefit with the passage of the bill, the minister said.

The utility of DNA based technologies for solving crimes and to identify missing persons is there are 60 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Norway, New Zealand, Finland and Bangladesh, Vardhan said.

He said DNA profiling through finger printing is currently happening in the country but the number of experts and laboratories are inadequate compared to the demand.

Currently there are 3,000 cases of DNA profiling, which is just 2-3 percent of the total need. Also the laboratories do not have specific standards and there is no data bank to store the DNA, he added.

Participating in the debate, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor termed the bill as an infringement of privacy as this would allow the government to store DNA profiles of individuals.

“It will enable creation of a big brother state. It is not a panacea...Enacting this law before bringing in a robust data protection law will have a bearing on the right to privacy,” Tharoor said.

He said the bill fails to provide “procedural safeguard” and hence it can be misused.

“A government which wants to dictate what we should eat and not eat, who to love and not love... also wants to control our DNA.. This is a matter of concern,” Tharoor said.

According to the government, the bill seeks to expand the application of DNA based forensic technologies to support and strengthen justice delivery system.

The bill’s provisions will enable cross matching between persons who have been reported missing and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.

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