The Bill provides for the regulation of use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of certain persons. A similar bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in January, 2019 but it could not be cleared in the Rajya Sabha. The bill had then lapsed with the dissolution of the previous Lok Sabha. The proposed law, which has been in the making since at least 2003, is the third attempt by the government to enact a law to regulate the use of DNA technology.This bill is important because DNA has been made admissible as an evidence now in the country, where as earlier it was not considered as an evidence at all.This,in itself, is expected to improve the conviction rate in India a lot.
The Bill is essentially trying to establish a regulatory framework for the usage of DNA information. It is establishing authorities at the Centre and the State level for keeping DNA information. The Bill also provides for what kind of DNA information would be kept.
Under the bill, a written consent by individuals is required to collect DNA samples from them. Consent is not required for offences with punishment of more than seven years of imprisonment or death.
As per the Bill, national and regional DNA data bankswill be set up for maintaining a national database for identification of victims, suspects in cases, undertrials, missing persons and unidentified human remains.The Bill provides for the establishment of a DNA Regulatory Board, which will supervise the DNA Data Banks and DNA laboratories. It will authorise laboratories across the country that would be allowed to collect DNA Data.
The bill also provides a framework for collection of DNA Information and also removal of DNA information.Under the Bill, DNA testing is allowed only in respect of matters listed in the Schedule to the Bill. These include offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and for civil matters such as paternity suits. Further, the Schedule includes DNA testing for matters related to establishment of individual identity.
The Law Commission, which submitted the final version of the DNA-Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2018 to the government in 2017, did not examine the Bill in light of two important privacy-related developments.In its report, the Law Commission made multiple allusions to the then-impending privacy judgement and stated that, “whether in Indian context privacy is an integral part of Article 21 of the constitution is a matter of academic debate. The Law Commission finished its deliberations regarding the bill by July 2017, a month before a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled in Puttaswamy vs Union of Indiathat Indians enjoy a fundamental right to privacy.
Concerns:Some members of Parliament had opposed the bill, saying that the bill will institutionalize a “surveillance state” especially as India lacks a privacy law and suggested that first a data protection law should be put in place.Another concern that some experts have pointed out is that DNA information can not only establish identity, but it can also tell us many things about an individual. For example, the kind of medical ailments that could happenThe Bill provides for the regulation of use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of certain persons.