DNA bank plan unveiled

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  • Published 23.09.14

New Delhi, Sept. 22: The Centre today revealed plans to establish a national DNA data bank and a DNA profiling (testing) board, mainly to help return unclaimed bodies and rescued children or adults to their families.

It said the enabling bill was likely to be introduced next March after legal experts’ opinion is sought on certain privacy concerns raised by some NGOs.

It clarified that the DNA samples would be collected only from those citizens who volunteered to provide them, apart from convicts and suspects.

The statement came in the Supreme Court after a two-judge bench had sought the government’s response to a public interest plea, moved by the NGO Lokniti Foundation, seeking a DNA data bank for all citizens.

Lokniti said that over 40,000 unclaimed bodies are found in railway stations and other places in India every year, and over 20,000 children disappear or get kidnapped. It argued that DNA samples alone can aid the authorities track their relatives down.

Lokniti also mentioned that a DNA data bank can help the police crack unsolved crimes.

The government said the bank would store DNA data from suspects, convicts, relatives of missing people as well as (research) volunteers, whose DNA profiles would help “further our knowledge of genetic markers in different Indian subpopulations”.

It said the proposed DNA profiling board would be made up of experts in subjects such as molecular biology, human genetics, population biology, bioethics, social sciences and law and criminal justice.

The board will define and establish the standards for DNA profiling and ensure quality control, including the accreditation of the DNA profiling laboratories. It will be housed at the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad.

Among the board’s responsibilities will be to:

• Authorise the communication of the DNA profiles to law-enforcement bodies and other agencies for civil and criminal proceedings and crime investigations;

• Recommend how to maximise the use of DNA techniques and technologies;

• Identify potential scientific advances in DNA techniques;

• Recommend privacy protection statutes relating to access to, and use of, stored DNA samples and DNA analyses;

• Make recommendations on the confidentiality and appropriate use of DNA information.

Additional solicitor-general Neeraj Kishan Kaul and the central government’s counsel, R. Mohana, told the bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Vikramjit Sen that the bill would have penal provisions for misuse or unauthorised use of DNA data.