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Bill: Parliamentary panel raises concerns over creating national DNA database as proposed under new bill

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New Delhi: A parliamentary panel has raised concerns over building a national database of crime scene DNA profiles as proposed under a new bill, saying it will include virtually everyone as DNA is left at such spots before and after the incident by several people who may have nothing to do with the case.

The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Bill, 2019, seeks to establish a National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data banks to store and maintain the DNA profiles in accordance with the provisions relating to the use and access to information, its retention and expunction.

The 32-member Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, headed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, tabled its report before Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

Two members of the panel, Asaduddin Owaisi, a Lok Sabha member from Telangana, and Binoy Viswam, a Rajya Sabha member representing Kerala, have submitted a dissent note.

The bill seeks to address concerns related to quality, accuracy, security of data and other related matters that may arise in the use of DNA technology.

The panel also raised concerns about the DNA data banks.

“…the risk with a national data bank of crime scene DNA profiles is that it will likely include virtually everyone since DNA is left at the crime scene before and after the crime by several persons who may have nothing to do with the crime being investigated.

“There is also DNA to be present of those who were nowhere near crime scene but bodily material like hair may have been transported to the crime scene inadvertently by a variety of ways,” the report said.

It added that many of these DNA profiles will then find their way into the “crime scene index” without the knowledge of these persons.

It has been suggested that crime scene DNA profiles can be used in the investigation and trial but it should not be put in a data bank, and rather destroyed once the case concludes with acquittal.

“If there is a conviction, only the DNA profile of the convict could be included in the data bank,” it added.

This is a fundamental issue on which it has not been possible to arrive at a consensus, the report said.

Some members feel that the crime scene index is unnecessary and is not a required feature to solve crimes. Some other members favour the retention of this clause (in the bill).

The bill was first introduced in Lok Sabha by Harsh Vardhan as the Minister for S&T in August 2018 and passed in January 2019. However, the bill lapsed due to the dissolution of Lok Sabha.

After the reconstitution of the government following the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Cabinet approved the bill and it was again introduced in Lok Sabha in July 2019.

In October 2019, the bill was referred to the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change by the Rajya Sabha Chairman in consultation with the Lok Sabha Speaker.

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