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DNA Technology Bill 2019, Provisions and Withdrawn from Lok Sakha

DNA Technology Bill 2019: In the Lok Sabha, the DNA Technology (Use And Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 was presented. Also known as the DNA Profiling Bill, aims to examine the use of DNA technology for determining an individual’s identification. Read the article to learn about the DNA Technology Bill 2019 and the reasons why it was withdrawn from the Lok Sabha.

What is DNA Technology?

The genetic material of a cell is called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), and it carries all of the instructions needed for cells to perform their structural and functional roles. It is a genetically complicated molecule found in nearly every other living thing, including humans. The study and manipulation of genetic material, including DNA cutting and pasting, sequencing, and analysis, is known as DNA technology. With the use of this technology, scientists can now modify DNA to learn more about the biology of living things and to enhance human health. The alarming concerns are that unlawful access to databanks and unauthorized information dissemination are two ways in which technology can be exploited.

James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the molecular structure of DNA for the first time in 1953. As DNA technology advanced over time, British scientist Sir Alec John Jeffrey discovered the DNA profiling technique in 1984. The practice of identifying a person’s unique traits using DNA profiling is most frequently employed in forensic technology to identify a person. In a multicellular organism, almost all of the cells have all of the DNA needed for that organism. All of the biological information required to create and sustain a creature is contained in its DNA. Saliva, hair, blood samples, a little portion of a person’s muscles or tissues, and nail scraping can all be used to extract DNA.

DNA Technology Bill, 2019

The Minister of Science and Technology, Mr. Harsh Vardhan, introduced the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha on July 8, 2019. The government claims that the purpose of the DNA technology bill is to identify those who are missing, victims, criminals, defendants for trial, and deceased individuals whose identities are unknown. A similar law was passed by the Lok Sabha in January 2019, but it was not cleared by the Rajya Sabha because of the opposition’s lack of support, and it expired. An identical bill was already tabled in the Lok Sabha in August 2018 but was never passed.

For the purpose of forensic-criminal investigations, it enables law enforcement organizations to gather DNA samples, produce DNA profiles, and establish specialized databanks. It specifies that no other purpose will be served by the use of any DNA data, including DNA samples, profiles, and records, other than the identification of the individual.

Benefits of DNA Technology Bill

Its goal is to establish a legal framework for the collection, preservation, and analysis of human DNA samples, primarily for use in criminal investigations and identity verification.

  • By providing for the mandatory accreditation and regulation of DNA laboratories, the Bill seeks to ensure that with the proposed expanded use of this technology in the country.
  • There is also the assurance that the DNA test results are reliable and the data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.
  • It aims to establish a supervisory framework in order to: Monitor procedures (currently utilised in parentage determination, criminal investigations, and missing person searches) and Establish norms and regulations to prevent the exploitation of DNA technology.
  • It outlines- The conditions wherein the request for DNA samples from an individual can be made. The situations for which such requests may be made; and The precise protocol for managing, preserving, and gaining access to these samples.

Background of DNA Technology Bill

  • DNA evidence was initially recognized by Indian courts in 1985. Still, a proper legal framework addressing the matter was not introduced in Parliament until January 2019 and was not even approved by the Lok Sabha.
  • The bill was originally submitted in 2003 by the Ministry of S&T and has undergone multiple revisions over time, moved by the Department of Biotechnology and the Law Ministry.
  • To provide recommendations for the preparation of the DNA Profiling Bill 2006, the Department of Biotechnology established the DNA Profiling Advisory Committee. Eventually, this developed into the 2007 Human DNA Profiling Bill.
  • The Department of Biotechnology collaborated with the Union Government to design a bill in 2007 about DNA fingerprinting and diagnostics.
  • The Human DNA Profiling Draft was released to the public in 2007. It was never brought up in Parliament for official recognition and was further criticized by members of civil society and non-governmental organizations as it failed to address privacy issues.
  • The Department of Biotechnology established an expert committee in 2013 to address objections to the bill and amend the text. The bill was again introduced in Parliament during the monsoon session in 2015, but it was postponed because of strong opposition to the measure’s protections for data security and privacy.
  • The Identification of Missing Persons and Human Remains Bill, as well as the Use and Regulation of DNA-based Technologies in Civil and Criminal Proceedings, were scheduled for introduction and deliberation in 2016, but faced backlash. They questioned the measures taken by the bill to protect the confidentiality of individuals whose DNA profiles will be kept in the databank, the measures taken to prevent contamination and theft of the samples and data banks, and the conditions under which law enforcement, scientists, and foreign agencies will be able to access and use the profiles.
  • Andhra Pradesh was the first Indian state to use DNA profiling in 2016. The Law Commission of India drafted the DNA-Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill 2017 in 2018 as part of its 271st report.
  • The commission concluded that DNA profiling was certainly utilised for medical research as well as for the identification of missing people and human remains, crime investigations, and disaster victims. It was implicated that there are some serious ethical issues and privacy problems associated with this scientific data collection.
  • According to the commission, the DNA profiling process should be carried out lawfully in accordance with the rules of the constitution if it is granted statutory recognition.
  • After being introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2019, it was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology.
  • The panel’s assessment, which was published in 2021, made clear that the bill might be abused to single out particular societal groups based on their political beliefs, caste, or place of religion.

Provisions of the Data Technology Bill

  • The goal is to create both a national and regional DNA data bank.
  • It is intended for each databank to keep an index such as the crime scene index, the index for suspects or undertrials, the index for offenders, the index for missing persons, and the index for unknown deceased persons.
  • It also aims to create a board for DNA regulation. The board must accredit any laboratory that uses DNA sample analysis to determine an individual’s identification.
  • The measure suggests obtaining individuals’ written consent prior to the collection of their DNA samples. Consent is not necessary, nevertheless, for offences carrying a maximum sentence of seven years in prison or the death penalty.
  • Additionally, it allows suspects’ DNA profiles to be deleted upon the filing of a police complaint or court order. Profiles in the crime scene and missing persons’ index will be removed on a written request.

Features of Data Technology Bill

The following are the features of the Data Technology Bill:

Use of DNA Data: DNA testing is only permitted under the Bill with regard to the subjects specified in the Schedule. These cover offences of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 as well as civil cases like paternity claims. Additionally, DNA testing is covered by the Schedule in cases pertaining to establishing an individual’s identification.

Collection of DNA: In some circumstances, authorities must get consent before collecting data. If the offence involves a maximum seven-year sentence, officials must get a written agreement before making an arrest. Consent is not necessary if the offence carries a sentence of more than seven years in jail or death.

Furthermore, the authorities must get the written approval of the victim, relative, parent, or guardian of the minor or handicapped person, if the person is a victim, a missing person, or a child or disabled person. If consent is not given in these cases, the authorities can approach a Magistrate who may order the taking of bodily substances from such persons.

DNA Data Bank: A National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data Banks are to be established for each state, or for two or more states, according to the Bill. DNA data prepared by DNA laboratories must be shared with the National and Regional DNA Data Banks. The following data types will need to have indices kept up-to-date in every data bank: (i) crime scene; (ii) suspects or undertrials; (iii) offenders; (iv) missing persons; and (v) unknown deceased persons.

Removal of DNA profiles: The Bill specifies that rules will determine the requirements for adding, keeping, or removing the DNA profile. The Bill allows the following individuals’ DNA profiles to be removed from the crime scene or missing persons’ database upon written request: (i) if a police report is made or a court order is granted; (ii) if a court order is granted; and (iii) of an undertrial.

DNA Regulatory Board: The proposed legislation calls for the creation of a DNA Regulatory Board, which will oversee DNA labs and data banks. The ex officio chairman of the board shall be the secretary of the Department of Biotechnology. The Board will also include the following additional members: (i) biological scientific specialists; and (ii) the directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the National Investigation Agency.

Functions of the Board: The Board’s responsibilities encompass providing governments with guidance on matters pertaining to the establishment of DNA laboratories or Data Banks, as well as accrediting DNA laboratories. Furthermore, the Board must guarantee the confidentiality of all information pertaining to DNA profiles with labs, Data Banks, and other parties.

DNA Laboratories:  Board accreditation is necessary for any laboratory that does DNA testing. The Board has the authority to withdraw accreditation for many reasons, such as: (i) not participating in DNA testing; or (ii) not adhering to the accreditation’s requirements. An appeal may be filed with the central government or any other entity it notifies in the event that the accreditation is revoked. In addition, all DNA laboratories must adhere to quality assurance requirements when gathering, storing, and analyzing DNA samples. The lab must give the biological sample back to the investigating officer after depositing the DNA profile in criminal situations. The sample has to be disposed of in all other circumstances.

Offences: The Bill lays out punishments for a number of offences, such as using a DNA sample without permission or disclosing DNA information. For example, revealing DNA information could result in a punishment of up to one lakh rupees and three years in prison.

Argument in Favor of Data Technology Bill

  • The government said that issues pertaining to data protection, secrecy, and privacy have been taken into consideration and that 60 countries have passed laws along similar lines.
  • It is suggested that only a certain amount of data be kept in the indices.
  • From the DNA samples, about 17 sets out of billions were to be used.
  • These serve as a distinctive identification rather than providing any personal information about the person.

Objections against Data Technology Bill

  • The main three questions surrounding the proposed Bill are: (1) Was the DNA technology foolproof? ; (2) Do the measures address the danger of abusing DNA information? ; and (3) Is individual privacy protected?
  • DNA testing can confirm a person’s identification and provide details about their physical characteristics, such as their skin, hair, or eye colour, susceptibility to certain diseases, potential medical history, and potential hints about biological relatives.
  • The gathering and keeping of private data can be abused and result in privacy violations.
  • According to the Standing Committee report (2021), Bill was extremely sensitive, sophisticated, and technical.
  • Misuse of DNA data might target society according to caste, religion, or political beliefs.

Reasons behind the Withdrawal of the Data Technology Bill

  • Opposing parties have voiced serious objections to the DNA Technology Bill. The Congress party charged that the government was using DNA technology without taking the required precautions. The bill was withdrawn as a result of this charge and worries expressed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology.
  • The other concern with the withdrawal was the overlapping of the Bill with the recently passed Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act. A few provisions covered by this statute are also included in the DNA Technology Bill.
  • During the discussion on the topic, privacy concerns were the most highlighted area of concern. Legislators and proponents of privacy rights expressed worries about the possible use of private DNA information. Following this, there have been widespread calls for similar privacy restrictions to be included in current laws. It was strongly believed that the bill’s withdrawal is in line with Indian and international court decisions regarding the right to privacy.
  • Several lawmakers had opposed the idea, arguing that it would institutionalize a surveillance state and that a data protection law should be implemented first.
  • Some claimed that there is no permission clause regarding the preservation of DNA data and that the draft law is flawed.

The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022

The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022 is an act that contains some provisions identical to those proposed in the DNA Technology Bill, 2019 bill. The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022 gives police and prison officials the authority to get identifying information from prisoners or anyone who have been detained for a crime. This Act contains the guidelines for gathering, storing, accessing, and exchanging DNA data that were contained in the DNA Bill. The Identification of Prisoners Act of 1920, a law from the colonial era that gave police the authority to measure individuals who had been found guilty, was in custody or were awaiting trial, was repealed.

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When was the DNA Technology Bill 2019 withdrawn from the Lok Sabha?

The DNA Technology Bill 2019 was withdrawn from the Lok Sabha on 24th July, 2023 Monday.

Which act contains similar provisions to the DNA Technology Bill 2019?

The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022 is an act that contains some provisions identical to those proposed in the DNA Technology Bill, 2019 bill.

What are the benefits of the DNA Technology Bill 2019?

Its goal is to establish a legal framework for the collection, preservation, and analysis of human DNA samples, primarily for use in criminal investigations and identity verification.

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