Centre has finalized DNA Profiling Bill

The Centre has finalised the ‘DNA Profiling Bill’ which is under consideration for the Cabinet’s approval for introduction in the Parliament. Recently, the Union Law Ministry has approved the draft bill prepared by the Department of Biotechnology under the Ministry of Science and Technology. The bill has a provision of penalties for abuse/misuse and unauthorised use of forensic samples for DNA profiling and extracted DNA.

In April this year, the Supreme Court had asked the Narendra Modi government to create a DNA data bank while hearing a PIL for creation of such the data bank to identify the missing persons and unidentified dead bodies. Under the drafted bill, a DNA profiling board will be set up which will deal with the use of profiles for specific purposes. The board, to be headed by a data bank manager, would serve as an authority to define standards for DNA profiling and to implement quality control measures, including the accreditation of DNA profiling laboratories. The board will comprise of experts in molecular biology, human genetics, population biology, bioethics, social sciences, law and criminal justice.

The national data bank shall maintain indices for various categories — crime scene index, suspects’ index, an offenders’ index, a missing persons’ index, unknown deceased persons’ index. “An index would be created of DNA profiles of individuals whose relatives have reportedly gone missing. This index would be created on a voluntary basis to help the relatives of missing persons. This index is for the purpose of identifying missing individuals and unidentified dead bodies…,” a government source told ‘dna’.

The department of biotechnology has sent a communication to the Heads of all Central and state forensic laboratories for their feedback on the bill while expert opinion has been sought as well. The government is likely to seek public opinion on the bill by next week. The apex court is to take up on Monday the PIL filed by an NGO-Lokniti Foundation pertaining to the issue.

Earlier, the Centre had told court that “legislative sanction” is required for establishment of a DNA profiles data bank which will help to identify dead bodies that are unidentified. The government had cited privacy concerns, lack of experts and only a handful of laboratories as the prime reasons for not being able to push the bill.

“The DNA Profiling Bill will provide legislative sanction for the government to formulate, approve and implement the rules and regulations for creation, maintenance and operation of the DNA data bank. The protocols for DNA profiling by the government would ensure appropriate use of biological samples and develop infrastructure as well as protocols across all states in the country for recording details of unidentified deceased individuals, collection storage and transport of biological samples to the laboratory of DNA analysis….,” the government said.

The country has only 30 to 40 DNA experts against an estimated requirement of around 800 technical examiners for its 1,200 million population. Additionally, each test costs Rs20,000 and the estimated cost of identifying 40,000 bodies would be Rs80 crore every year, in addition to the remuneration of the examiners and support staff.

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