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Question – The DNA profile will be used to guide security agencies in the cases of criminal investigation, in this context, discuss the report on the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019, by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forest and Climate Change. – 10 April
- Recently, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forest and Climate Change has submitted its report on the DNA Technology (Uses and Applications) Regulation Bill, 2019. The purpose of this bill is to regulate the use of DNA information to establish person’s identity. The DNA profile will be used to guide security agencies in cases of criminal investigation.
- The committee underlined the need to ensure the use of state-of-the-art techniques in the criminal justice system, but at the same time made it clear that the constitutional rights and especially the right to privacy should not be violated in this process.
- Although DNA technology can assist law enforcement agencies in solving crimes, the government should address the concerns related to the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019.
Important points related to DNA Technology Regulation Bill:
Violation of Right to Privacy: Criticizing this bill, it has been argued that it violates human rights because this bill can also compromise the privacy of the people.
- Concerns and questions have also been raised about the plan to preserve the confidentiality of DNA profiles stored in databanks under this bill.
- The DNA Technology Regulation Bill is among the long list of Bills that are being introduced in the absence of a strong data protection law in the country.
Sophisticated Criminal Investigation: Effective use of DNA technology during criminal investigation will require proper investigation, trained and reliable policing of the crime scene, accurate analysis and proper use of evidence in court.
Without meeting these requirements, a DNA database will increase rather than solve problems in the criminal justice system. For example, a crisis of justice may arise due to incorrect match or tampering with investigation or evidence.
Biological surveillance: It is possible that all the DNA evidence obtained from a crime scene does not belong to the people involved in the crime.
- Currently, laboratories operating in the country can fulfill only 2-3% of the total requirement of DNA profiling.
- Significantly, in Rajiv Singh v. State of Bihar (2011), the Supreme Court rejected improperly analyzed DNA evidence.
Impact on the underprivileged: One of the long-standing major flaws in India’s criminal justice system is the lack of a legal aid system to provide assistance to both the victim and the accused (especially for the marginalized sections of the society).
- Numerous studies show that most people accused of criminal cases are not aware of their rights.
- This concern can be further aggravated when a sophisticated technique like DNA profiling will be used to prove the crime.
Misuse of caste based profiles: The Standing Committee underlined the fact that DNA profiles can reveal extremely sensitive information about an individual and hence can be used for caste / community based profiling.
- Prioritizing the protection of privacy: The responsibility of protecting the privacy of citizens has been given to the government. The easiest option for privacy protection during the use of DNA would be to implement the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 in advance.
- It will also provide some relief to the people in the absence of protection of their rights.
- This has become especially important after the Supreme Court’s decision on the right to privacy.
- Establishment of an independent regulator: Even after the DNA regulatory board proposed in the bill is too powerful; it lacks adequate transparency or accountability. Therefore, the appointment of an independent forensic science regulator should be considered to ensure monitoring of both laboratory quality assurance and crime scene testing.
- Ensuring Transparency: With the adoption of a new system for the sequencing of DNA profiles of under trials, criminals, missing and deceased persons, it becomes even more important to consider increasing transparency in DNA profiling techniques.
- Addressing human and infrastructure needs: For effective and judicious use of this technology, there will be a need to train and aware the officers associated with the criminal judicial system, such as the police, lawyers, magistrates etc. Additionally the infrastructure issues associated with the number of laboratories need to be addressed.
In Malak Singh Etc vs State of Punjab & Haryana &Ors., the Supreme Court in its judgment said that, without extensive monitoring / surveillance of the suspects, it cannot be easy to successfully fight organized crime, but such surveillance cannot violate the fundamental right to personal liberty. In this context, there is a great need to establish an enabling ecosystem so that such profiling can be effectively implemented in line with the principles of human rights and the Constitution.