Structure of DNA

DNA profiling is a forensic technique used to identify individuals by characteristics of their DNA samples.

How it started?

1. The idea behind Human DNA profiling was first started in 2003.

2. In 2014, a PIL by an NGO, Lokniti Foundation proposed that India should have a national DNA database.



3. In 2015, Department of Biotechnology under the Department of Science and Technology in Civil and Criminal Proceedings, Identification of Missing Persons and Human Remains Bill was submitted.

Concerns

1. It intrudes into the privacy of the individuals.

2. Reliability of the technology is doubted. DNA data that is recovered from a crime scene may not be enough to produce correct match. There are cases of DNA chimeras where a person has multiple genomes.

3. During DNA testing, a person has to give his gender, name, address, caste etc and it is not stated till how long these data was will kept in stored

4. DNA is not foolproof and false matches can take place too.

5. In India, DNA data use is not only for tracking criminal activates and investigations unlike in other countries, but it is used also for tracking missing person, victims of accidents etc.

6. India has a poor record of privacy and security with debates arising out of Aadhaar, homosexuals etc.

7. It will be very costly. India should instead focus on other important issues like poverty, human development, corruption etc.

8. This has not lead to reduction in crime rates or increase in conviction rates in countries where this is already followed.

9. There is a fear that just like of Aaadhaar; this too can be forced eventually whereas it was started as voluntary identification proof.

10. Digging too deep into the privacy of the individual and using it for commercial purposes can also be done. There can be misuse of data.

Benefits

1. It will be helpful in conviction of criminal.

2. Missing people can be tracked.

3. Many practical applications like genetic diseases detection, producing biological drugs from genetically altered bacteria, mapping human genome, engineering drought resistant plants etc can be done.

4. Establishing parental relations becomes easier.

5. It is useful for research and medical purposes.

6. Also helpful in disaster victim identification.

7. Thousands of unclaimed bodies that is reported every year can be solved.

Proposals by the Law Commission of India

1. 271st Report of the Law Commission of India deals with the DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill 2017.

2. The Law Commission of India considered the draft bill submitted by the Department of Biotechnology and concluded that merely amending the Code of Criminal procedure 1973 may not serve the purpose.

3. There was a need to regulate the use of human DNA profiling through a standalone proof of thee Parliament so that there is quality assurance to ensure the credibility of DNA testing.


The salient features of the recommendations of the Bill are:

1. Constituting DNA Profiling Board to advise ministries on issues relating to DNA labs, to give authorization to labs, supervising and monitoring such labs. Ethical and human rights issues will be dealt with inconsonance with international guidelines.

2. There shall be creation of national and state data banks.

3. DNA profiling would be exclusively for identification of a person.

4. To find kith and kin of missing persons, proper provision regarding the identification of missing person on the basis of their samples.

5. Maintanance of strict confidentiality with regard to the DNA profile and their use.

6. Appropriate legislation for entry and retaining of DNA profiles.

7. Any violation of provisions would attract a penalty of 2 lacks or 3 years imprisonment.

8. Another DNA testing can be allowed if the court is convinced that the earlier samples were contaminated and hence could not be relied upon.

9. DNA experts may be specified as Government Scientific experts.

10. The DNA profiling bill if approved will make India the last largest countries to adopt a finger printing bill


Precedents

The Supreme Court in Bhabani Prasad Jena v. Convenor Secretary, Orissa State Commission for women, whilst pressing upon the significance of DNA testing in the process of administration of justice held: “when there is apparent conflict between the right to privacy of a person not to submit himself forcibly to medical examination and duty of the court to reach the truth, the court must exercise its discretion only after balancing the interests of the parties and on due consideration whether for a just decision in the matter, DNA test is eminently needed.”

In Goutam Kundu v. State of West Bengal, the Supreme Court observed:

(1) That courts in India cannot order blood test as a matter of course;

(2) Wherever applications are made for such prayers in order to have roving inquiry, the prayer for blood test cannot be entertained.

(3) There must be a strong prima facie case in that the husband must establish non-access in order to dispel the presumption arising under Section 112 of the Evidence Act.

(4) The court must carefully examine as to what would be the consequence of ordering the blood test; whether it will have the effect of branding a child as a bastard and the mother as an unchaste woman.

(5) No one can be compelled to give sample of blood for analysis.

Prevalence in different countries

1. Mostly the countries have it in consonance with the law of the land and for tracking criminal conviction.

2. It has been developed to identify the disaster victims

3. In UK, it has been developed to deal with criminal investigations. To make the process faster, because of the parliamentary act, the police are permitted to take the DNA of the arrested person before the process begins. But the court cannot order for blood test without the consent of the parent. However there are exceptions to this in cases of diseases like HIV.

4. In US, the FBI designed the Combined DNA Index System to solve serious crimes and many times it includes several other crimes too.

5. In China, DNA Banks has been established by Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Interior. The offenders have to give samples voluntarily and they can be retained for 10 years

6. In Canada, samples can be collected only for legal purposes. Measures are taken to protect privacy.

7. Several other countries like Argentina, Holland, Germany etc too include the provision when it comes to serious crimes.

What is the Procedure involved?

1. The procedure of DNA fingerprint first consists of obtaining sample of cells like hair; skin etc which consists DNA and it is then purified.

2. DNA is then cut at specific points along the strand with proteins known as restriction enzymes.

3. The enzymes are fragmented by placing them on electric current.

4. When subjected to blotting technique, the double stranded DNA splits into single strands and transferred into nylon sheets.

5. They are then subjected to auto radiography and bound to minisateliites.

6. It is subjected to X-ray and dark mark is produced where a radioactive probe had become attached.

7. Polymerase chain reaction amplifies the desired fragments DNA, the exact sequence of nucleotide pairs in a sequence is determined.

Recommendations

1. Technology is a double edged sword and must be handled carefully by those in power

2. Should be as per constitutional provisions

3. The practices and detailed procedures how the organizations are using the DNA samples should be made transparent.

4. The individuals should be made empowered and given training to be aware how their personal details and DNA samples are being used.

5. Robust privacy security mechanism should be developed

6. Comprehensive privacy legislation in India should be enacted

7. Public debate should be encouraged in this scenario.


References
1. http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/draft/Draft%20Human%20DNA%20Profiling%20Bill%202015.pdf
2. http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/Report271.pdf
3. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/regulation-of-dna-profiling/article19372786.ece

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