NEW DELHI: ‘Political DNA’ analysis may come in handy in the electoral fray, but for solving a case and picking up clues from the site of crime a Human DNA Profiling Bill is on the agenda. Or to precise, ready for introduction this Monsoon session of Parliament, but for the Opposition disruptions.
In the works since 2007, the bill is now being pushed by none other PM Narendra Modi, who’s keen to see it through off the ground as a powerful technology for establishing identity in a criminal or civil proceeding and for other specified purposes.
The use of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid, DNA test for human profiling has raised a debate. Particularly, after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi expressed the view before the Supreme Court that the right to privacy is no fundamental right for Indian citizens. This he said in defence of the Aadhar identification card.
Seen together, these two legalized population profiling attempts have created public apprehension. Both have their origins in the UPA regime.
Along with the mandatory biometric provision of the Aadhaar card, which is basically finger-print profiling and neat cataloguing of population, its properties and income through an unique ID number, the DNA profiling would go a long way in further marking the population.
The declared goal of the two is different though. While Aadhaar devised ostensibly to provide targeted social subsidy, the objective of Human DNA profiling bill is to assist criminal/civil proceedings.
The Human DNA Profiling Bill, 2015, draft admits that “DNA analysis offers sensitive information which, if misused can cause harm to person or society ‘’ hence the “need to regulate the use through an Act passed by Parliament only for lawful purposes’’. As of now, random sampling taking, DNA profiling of victim or suspects from the scene of crime cannot be done without consent. But, that may change, if the bill is passed.
The bill also proposes a “National DNA Data Bank with policies of use and access to information’’, its “retention and deletion’’. The Bank will have a manager—an expert in the field—to execute and maintain the system that bill seeks to set up.
There will be a DNA Profiling Board of eminent scientists, administrators and Law Enforcement officers to administer and carry out the functions assigned to it under the Act. The proposed law, which is ready of introduction as confirmed by the Science & Technology Ministry, is in keeping with the objectives of creating a data-banks and administration board.
The bill lays down a regulatory framework and standards for laboratories, collection of human body substance, custody trail from collection to reporting, also the monitoring of the Data bank.
However, some experts have doubts about the effectiveness of human DNA profiling as a method of cracking criminal and civil cases or of maintaining a databank for criminal profiling.
They feel, DNA profiling is in a way a technological extension of the colonial anthropological project of population profiling, that led to proscribing of certain ancient Indian tribes as “criminal’’ or “criminally prone’’. Also the declared objective in the draft bill, a copy of which is with The Sunday Standard, that the data could be used for “other specified purposes’’ has generated a sense of apprehension as what the purposes could be.
Members of Parliament, including one from the ruling party, are of the view that the bill should be referred to the concerned Standing Committee so that safeguard can be created.