The most cutting-edge medical and technological method for identifying a specific person is DNA profiling. Via Acts in India, the Indian government has often tried but failed to develop this kind of technology. The DNA Profiling Law raises several issues, including the biggest threat to a person's right to privacy, which is why it is so divisive.
The DNA Technology Regulation Bill[i] was passed by the Lok Sabha in late 2019, however, the Parliamentary Standing Committee was tasked with examining it and making any required observations. The law's objective is to govern how DNA data will be used to validate people's identities. These profiles are then intended to guide law enforcement authorities' investigations. The international applicability of this DNA profiling approach is vast, and India should have access to it as well, given its success in other countries.
Deoxyribonucleic acid, also known as DNA, is a complex molecule that contains all of the information necessary to create and maintain an organism. All living organisms contain DNA in their cells. In reality, the full DNA of a multicellular organism is present in almost every cell.
Yet, DNA is the fundamental component of heredity in all living things and does more than only define the structure and function of living things. In other words, a piece of an organism's DNA is passed on to its progeny when it reproduces.
When all or a portion of an organism's DNA is passed down from generation to generation, it helps to retain some continuity while still allowing for little differences that contribute to life's diversity.
In 1985, British scientist Alec Jeffreys created the current DNA profiling technique. A technique for identifying a person is DNA profiling, sometimes referred to as DNA fingerprinting.
DNA profiling is a technique that makes it possible to identify a person by taking biological samples from their skin, hair, blood, saliva, and other body fluids. Every cell in our body has DNA, thus if a biological sample is found, the DNA of any individual may be easily extracted from it. Your DNA is distinct from everyone else's, thus if a sample is taken, a special DNA profile will be made using it.
The draft legislation mentions both a DNA Profiling Board and a national DNA databank. The National DNA Databank's mission is to collect information on criminals, suspects, missing individuals, and unexplained deceased remains. They must also be in charge of DNA profiling and archiving.
This responsibility includes an additional requirement, namely that the accused or suspected persons have access to the data. This is the goal of the National DNA Databank, also known as the DNA Profiling Bank. The DNA Profiling Board will be in charge of developing DNA Profiling rules and regulations.
This Board, which is a decision-making body, will create the DNA profiling procedure's norms and regulations. Another job of this Board is to certify labs and banks. Furthermore, the draft provision required the establishment of this body at both the federal and state levels. We saw various benefits and positive qualities in this bill, but these are the reasons we were unable to pass it. Let us now look at why we chose not to make this measure into an Act.
The existing Draft Bill is deficient or ambiguous about what will take place. There are presently no specific provisions in the proposed law that support the Genetic Database, Profiling Board, or banks. As a result, it is yet unknown how these Data Banks or boards would be organized, what members they would have, and how the funding and resources needed to implement this Act would be raised.
One of the most important discoveries is that the Bill might be used to conduct caste-based profiling. Apart from that, DNA profiling reveals many other extremely private data about an individual, such as skin color, behavior, sicknesses, and so on. Regrettably, if this case-sensitive information enters into the wrong hands, it might be abused to the extent of establishing many profiles of the same person, posing a major risk.
It might also be used to make a link between criminal activities and a certain caste or culture. This suggests that a big number of criminal behaviors are widespread in this group based on profile data. Such knowledge may develop taboos or stigmas against specific castes or groups, which would be harmful to the integration of our society.
Profiling a convicted individual is a reasonable deed, but profiling suspects, victims, and their loved ones cannot be morally justified. Profiling any victim or undertrial criminal may be difficult since doing so would violate the accused's rights.
The law requires that the person whose profile is being created provide their written consent; however, this consent is only required for legal formalities since, in the event that they decline, the Magistrate may reject their decision.
The duration for which the police may retain the DNA collected at the crime scene is not specified. There is a chance that the database will get into the wrong hands as a result. The right to privacy, which is a fundamental freedom granted to all people under Article 21, can also be said to be violated.
The court determined that self-incrimination refers to the disclosure of information based on the specific knowledge of the person providing it, as opposed to the routine process of providing records in court that may shed light on any issues in question but do not include any claims made by the accused based on his knowledge.[ii]
The Supreme Court determined that the case's two premises fully articulated the boundaries of "testimonial coercion." Secondly, the restriction envisioned by Article 20 (3) is becoming closer since "individual testimony" frequently refers to oral or written reports that express specific information about a person concerning crucial facts.[iii]
Squeezing the significance of DNA testing during the time spent administering equity, the Supreme Court concluded in this instance that the court should only use its carefulness after carefully considering the parties' interests and balancing them. This is due to an evident conflict between a person's right to be protected from clinical examination and the court's obligation to ascertain the truth.[iv]
People's personalities are raised regarding the abuse of DNA profiling, which, if not secured, may result in the disclosure of personal information, such as health-related information, which may be utilized by others with malicious intent, negatively compromising the individual's privacy.
[i] DNA Technology Regulation Bill, 2019 [PRS India Org]
[ii] State of Bombay v. Kathi Kalu Oghad & Ors 1962 AIR SCR (3) 10
[iii] Smt. Selvi & Ors. v. State of Karnataka AIR 2010 SC 1974
[iv] Bhabani Prasad Jena v. Convenor Secretary, Orissa State Commission for Women (2010) 8 SCC 633