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DNA Bill can be misused for caste-based profiling, says panel draft report

25th August, 2020 Health

Context: The Bill that proposes DNA sampling and profiling of citizens accused of crime or reported missing and storing their unique genetic information for administrative purposes has some alarming provisions that could be misused for caste or community-based profiling, a draft report of the parliamentary standing committee on science and technology has flagged.

Sensitive information:

  • The committee, in its draft report, pointed out that the DNA profiles can reveal extremely sensitive information of an individual such as pedigree, skin colour, behaviour, illness, health status and susceptibility to diseases.
  • Under the provisions of the Bill, access to such intrusive information can be misused to specifically target individuals and their families with their own genetic data. This is particularly worrying as it could even be used to incorrectly link a particular caste/community to criminal activities.

Highlights of the Bill:

  • As per the Bill, national and regional DNA data banks will be set up for maintaining a national database for identification of victims, suspects in cases, under trials, missing persons and unidentified human remains.
  • Punishment: According to it, those leaking the DNA profile information to people or entities who are not entitled to have it, will be punished with a jail term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh. Similar, punishment has also been provided for those who seek the information on DNA profiles illegally.
  • Usage: As per the bill, all DNA data, including DNA profiles, DNA samples and records, will only be used for identification of the person and not for “any other purpose”.
  • The bill’s provisions will enable the cross matching between persons who have been reported missing on the one hand and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country on the other, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.
  • The Bill establishes a DNA Regulatory Board to accredit the DNA laboratories that analyse DNA samples to establish the identity of an individual.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dna-bill-can-be-misused-for-caste-based-profiling-says-panel-draft-report/article32429334.ece#:~:text=DNA%20database&text=In%20the%20Bill%2C%20if%20a,%2C%20is%20only%20%E2%80%9Cperfunctory.%E2%80%9D