DNA Testing & Surrounding Legislations in India

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    In Context

    • Recently, the Supreme Court has voiced concerns over the increasing use of DNA testing to prove a case.

    More about the news

    • Issue:
      • More and more complainants are seeking DNA tests –  such requests are increasing by around 20% each year
      • DNA Forensics Laboratory Private Limited says it tests around 300-400 samples each month that are both private requests and court-mandated. 
        • The numbers were only around 30-40 till five years ago.
          • DNA Forensics Laboratory Private Limited is one of the biggest centres which is accredited with the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).
    • Justice vs privacy:
      • The Supreme Court has recently held that compelling an unwilling person to undergo a DNA test would be a violation of his/her personal liberty and right to privacy.
      • The court is turning the spotlight on the spreading use of a technology that aids the cause of justice on the one hand but violates privacy on the other.
    • Global scenario:
      • While the 3,000-odd DNA tests Indian labs perform annually is minuscule compared to the 70 other countries that rely on DNA technology.

    More about the DNA testing

    • About:
      • DNA is a very powerful tool for investigation because no two people can have the same DNA except in the case of identical twins. 
      • DNA/Genetic tests are performed on a sample of blood, hair, skin, amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds a fetus during pregnancy), or other tissue.
    • Where is it used?
      • Crime scenes:
        • DNA tests are used in the criminal investigation by the police where they find the suspect by matching the DNA samples of the crime scene with the suspected person’s DNA. 
      • Finding inheritance:
        • DNA test is the only tool that can deliver justice in cases of abandonment of mothers and children.
          • It is also a very powerful tool in civil cases where the court has to decide the matter relating to the maintenance and find the parents of the child.
    • Legislation on DNA testing:
      • There is no legislation present in India which can provide specific guidelines to the investigating agencies or the court for dealing with DNA testing.
      • Section 53 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973
        • This section authorized a police officer for getting the assistance of a medical practitioner in good faith for the purpose of the investigation
        • The section does not enable to collect blood semen etc. for bringing the charges against a person.
      • Courts’ stands:
        • Courts are also reluctant to use the DNA test technique because there are serious questions raised regarding the right of privacy which comes under Article 21 of the Constitution and the right against self-incrimination which comes under Article 20(3) of the Constitution.
    • The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019:
      • About:
        • The bill was introduced in Lok Sabha, commonly known as DNA profiling Bill.
        • This bill tries to establish a regulatory framework for the usage of DNA information.
      • Data Bank:
        • The bill also seeks to establish a Nationwide data bank of DNA where crime scene index, suspects or offenders, missing or unknown person indices will be maintained.
      • Specifically listed matters for testing:
        • DNA testing will only be allowed for the identification of the person with is related to the matter which is listed in the bill which is as follows:
          • Offences under the IPC which is useful for investigating offences.
          • Offences which are in special laws such as immoral trafficking, domestic violence, civil right violation, motor vehicle Act, etc.
          • In civil matters in which there is a parental dispute where it is necessary for a DNA tests for the identification of parents of the child.
      • Offences: 
        • The Bill specifies penalties for various offences, including: 
          • For disclosure of DNA information, or 
          • Using DNA sample without authorization.

    Challenges & way ahead

    • Complex procedure:
      • Although, there is a common consensus within the scientific community that DNA profiling can yield results with a very high probability, the complex procedure of DNA profiling is not without problems.
    • Possibility of abuse of data:
      • The surge of requests belies fears about privacy and concerns about possible abuse of data.
    • It can be safely concluded that the Supreme Court is yet to reflect with detailed insight on constitutional validity of DNA testing and its methods.

    Autosomal DNA technique  

    • It is a term used in genetic genealogy to describe DNA that is inherited from the autosomal chromosomes
    • An autosome is any of the numbered chromosomes, as opposed to the sex chromosomes. 
    • The autosomal DNA technique can be used even when very limited genetic data are available.
    • Autosomal DNA tests can be used to confirm relationships with a high level of accuracy for parent/child relationships and all relationships up to the second cousin level. 
      • For all relationships additional contextual and genealogical information is required to confirm the nature of the relationship.