DNA technology bill introduced in Lok Sabha

The DNA Technology Regulation Bill, which seeks to control the use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of a person, was introduced in Lok Sabha on Monday amid questions being raised by opposition parties on its provisions. A similar bill was passed in Lok Sabha in January, but lapsed as it could not be cleared in Rajya Sabha. The bill had then lapsed with the dissolution of the previous Lok Sabha. Opposing the introduction of the bill, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, the bill violates fundamental rights as DNA of undertrials can be collected without court orders. Describing the draft law as flawed, he said there is no provision of consent on the storage of DNA data. Shashi Tharoor (Cong) alleged that the bill will institutionalise a surveillance state and suggested that first a data protection law should be put in place. You cannot put the cart before the horse, he said. Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan, who introduced the bill, said there is no serious substance in the concerns raised by members. He also pointed out that several rounds of consultations have been undertaken and the measure has been pending for nearly a decade. He reminded members that a similar bill was passed by the previous Lok Sabha too after long deliberations. The legislation seeks to establish a National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data Banks. The bill envisages that every data bank will maintain indices like the crime scene index, suspects or undertrials index, offenders index, missing persons index and unknown deceased persons index. The legislation also seeks to establish a DNA Regulatory Board. Every laboratory that analyses DNA samples to establish the identity of an individual, has to be accredited by the board. Under the bill, a written consent by individuals is required to collect DNA samples from them. Consent is not required for offences with punishment of more than seven years of imprisonment or death. It also provides for removal of DNA profiles of suspects on filing of a police report or court order, and of undertrials on the basis of a court order. Profiles in the crime scene and missing persons index will be removed on a written request.