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DNA Technology

DNA Technology

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  • GS 3 || Science & Technology || Biotechnology || Human Genome & DNA

Why in News?

  • The Bill that provides for the regulation of the use and application of DNA technology for establishing the identity of certain categories of persons, including offenders, victims, suspects and undertrials, was passed in LokSabha.

What is DNA Technology?

  • The use of DNA data is also likely to be useful in quickly identifying missing persons and resolving criminal cases in which repeat offenders might be
  • DNA technology is the study and manipulation of genetic materials.
  • Scientists are using DNA technology for a wide variety of
  • A major component of DNA technology is cloning, which is the process of making multiple, identical copies of a gene.
  • DNA technology is useful in the production of vaccines and protein therapies such as human insulin, interferon and human growth hormone.
  • It is also used for treating hemophilia and in the development of gene therapy.
  • New DNA based technologies emerged: – PLR, Recombinant DNA, Cloning, DNA fingerprinting, gene therapy, DNA profiling, DNA microarray technology.
  • The DNA profiling was used in the Rajiv Gandhi case and later DNA fingerprinting in the tandoor murder case.
  • But from 2007 onwards, India is lagging behind, largely because people had some questions and issues regarding privacy.

Key Features Of The Bill

  • Procedures -“Home Ministry” recently circulated a set of guidelines on how to search crime scenes and collect, store and transport DNA samples.
  • But considering the lack of expertise within our police departments and the carefree attitude for procedural compliances, there are imminent risks.
  • Accreditation – As many errors occur before samples get to the laboratory, there is a requirement quality assurance in the bill.
  • Consideration should be given to an independent forensic science regulator, who should oversee the certification for preventing contamination.
  • Regulator – The Bill’s proposed “DNA Regulatory Board” is too powerful and seems insufficiently transparent or accountable.
  • Hence, these needs to be fixed and an independent ethics board should be set up to rule on aspects of privacy and other moral concerns.
  • Safeguards – The Bill allows for involuntary collection of DNA samples from suspects of criminal cases with certain restrictions.

Use and Application

  • The primary intended purpose of the enactment of the bill is for expanding the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.
  • The utility of DNA based technologies for solving crimes, and to identify missing persons, is well recognized across the world.
  • Other aims include Speedier justice delivery and Increased conviction
  • Bill’s provisions will enable the cross-matching between persons reported missing and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.
  • By providing for the mandatory accreditation and regulation of DNA laboratories, the Bill seeks to ensure the data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.

Criticisms

  • Privacy issues: Concerns over privacy or misuse of information still prevail.
  • The Issue of security: Profiling standard as a means to protecting privacy in its report- This standard has yet to find its way in the text of the Bill.
  • It has been pointed out that information like ancestry or susceptibility to a disease or other genetic traits is liable to be misused.
  • It has been said that DNA Profiling has not led to an improvement in conviction rates in countries where it is already being followed.

Way forward

  • AP Shah Committee’s suggestions to facilitate opt in-opt out with regard to providing personal information should be heeded.
  • Malimath Committee’s report on criminal justice reform should be adhered to while authorizing DNA profiling of individuals.
  • Instead of an over-arching regulator, it should provide a hierarchical system of checks in order to ensure accountability and safeguard privacy rights.
  • Lessons should be learned from experiences of developed countries as over-reliance on DNA profiling could backfire.

Additional Info-Laws in other Countries

  • Argentina
  • The National Criminal Procedure Code was amended in 2009 to provide for a uniform approach to DNA testing in cases of illegal adoption and falsification of identity
  • They have established a National Bank of Genetic Data and DNA.
  • United States of America
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation designed the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) with the purpose of amalgamating forensic sciences and computer technology into an effective apparatus for solving serious crimes.
  • China passed a law allowing the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior to establish DNA Banks.

Mains Question

  • DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018 is right in intent, but bereft of safeguards, can be misutilized. Critically analyze.