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DNA Technology Regulation Bill

Context: The Union Cabinet cleared the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill once again, paving the way for its reintroduction in Parliament.

Issues with the Bill:

  1. Written consent is required from everyone for their DNA samples to be collected, processed and included in the database except from those who have committed crimes with punishment of 7+ years or death.

However, a similarly specific instruction is missing for the collection of DNA samples for civil matters. Such matters include parentage disputes, emigration or immigration and transplantation of human organs.

Also Read : Citizenship Amendment bill 

The Bill also doesn’t state that the consent has to be voluntary.

  1. Issues over storage: It’s not clear if DNA samples collected to resolve civil disputes will also be stored in the databank (regional or national), although there is no index specific for the same.

If they will be stored, then the problem cascades because the Bill also does not provide for information, consent and appeals.

If a person’s DNA data has entered the databank, there is no process specified by which they can have it removed.

All of these issues together could violate the right to privacy.

  1. Safety issues: There’s also the question of whether the DNA labs accredited by the Regulatory Board are allowed to store copies of the samples they analyse.

And if so, how the owners of those samples can ensure the data is safe or needs to be removed from their own indices.

It’s unclear if the Regulatory Board will oversee other tests performed at the accredited labs.

This could become necessary because, unlike one’s biometric data or PAN number, the human genome contains lots of information about every individual.

  1. Prone to misuse: a test undertaken to ascertain a person’s identity by analysing her DNA will in the process may also reveal a lot of other things about that person, including information about their ancestry, diseases to which they are susceptible, etc. – i.e. information that the individual has a right to keep private.

The Bill does not specify which parts of an individual’s DNA can be analysed to ascertain their identity.

What the govt says?

The government has been arguing that since DNA tests are already happening, and frequently used as the most reliable tool to establish identity, it would be better to have regulatory safeguards so that it is carried out only in prescribed manner and by authorised personnel and institutions.

The government has also claimed that very limited information is proposed to be stored in the indices — just 17 sets of numbers out of billions that DNA samples can reveal.

Current Affairs 2020

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