India: The DNA Technology (Use And Application) Regulation Bill 2019

In a landmark decision, the Lok Sabha, on January 08, 2019, passed the "DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill - 20191" (here after referred as "Bill"). The Bill had been introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Science and Technology in August 2018 to regulate the use and application of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) technology for establishing identity of certain persons including missing persons, victims, offenders, under trials and unknown deceased persons.

It also includes civil matters such as parentage disputes, issues related to pedigree, immigration or emigration, assisted reproductive technologies, transplantation of human organs, and for the establishment of individual identity.

The Bill is formulated to assist in forensic investigations and will aid in scientific upgradation and streamlining of the DNA testing activities in the country. For that, the Bill seeks:

  • Establishment of a DNA Regulatory Board;
  • Accreditation of DNA laboratories undertaking DNA testing, analyzing, etc.;
  • Establishment of the National and Regional DNA Data Banks,

By providing for the mandatory accreditation and regulation of DNA laboratories, the Bill seeks to ensure that every DNA laboratory is required to follow standards of quality assurance in collection, storing, testing, and analysis of DNA samples for the proposed expanded use of this technology in this country. All DNA laboratories will share DNA data prepared by them with the National and Regional DNA Data Banks. Moreover, the Data Banks are required to maintain the following indices: (i) crime scene index, (ii) suspects' or undertrials' index, (iii) offenders' index, (iv) missing persons' index, and (v) unknown deceased persons' index.

The process for collection of DNA samples

A written consent by individuals is required to collect their DNA samples. There is also the assurance that the DNA test results are reliable, and furthermore that the data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.

The DNA sample collection from suspects may require Magistrate order and/or consent is not required if suspects are reported for offences with penalty above seven years.

DNA profile management

DNA profiles are prepared from DNA samples collected from individuals. The Bill provides a list of sources for collection of samples for DNA profiling. This includes biological substances such as blood sample, hair, and mouth swab. Once DNA profiling is performed by DNA laboratories, the laboratories are required to share DNA data prepared by them with the National and Regional DNA Data Banks.

The Bill also seeks the removal of DNA profiles in case of the crime scene index or missing persons' index on the basis of a written request by the individual. The DNA profile of a suspect will be removed after the filing of a police report or as per a court order. In the case of an undertrial, the DNA profile will be removed on the basis of a court order.

Offences and penalties

The Bill seeks penalty for violations in provisions such as (i) unauthorized disclosure of information from the Data Bank, (ii) obtaining information from the Data Bank without authorization, or (iii) using DNA sample without authorization. Penalty can be imprisonment up to three years and fine of up to one lakh rupees. Further, the penalty for intentional tampering or destruction of biological evidence is imprisonment up to five years as well as fine of up to two lakh rupees.

About DNA

DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA). Nearly every cell in a person's body has the same DNA. The DNA of a person is unique, and variation in the sequence of DNA can be used to match individuals and identify them2.

Footnotes

1. http://www.prsindia.org/sites/default/files/bill_files/DNA%20Technology%20%28Use%20and%20Application%29%20Regulation%20Bill%2C%202018%20Bill%20Text.pdf

2. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/basics/dna

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