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The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill 2019

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

 

Source: IE

 Context: The Union government withdrew the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill 2019 from the Lok Sabha.

 

What is DNA technology?

  • DNA/Deoxyribonucleic acid is the genetic material of the cell and contains all of the instructions for cells to carry out their structure and function.
  • DNA technology is the study and manipulation of genetic material, which includes sequencing, analysis, and cutting-and-pasting of DNA.
  • Using this technology, scientists are able to manipulate DNA to study the biology of living organisms and to improve human life (treatment of diseases).
  • However, the technology can be abused through unauthorised access to databanks and unauthorised disclosure of information.

 

Background of the Bill:

  • First proposed in 2003 (by the Ministry of S&T), the Bill has gone through numerous changes, led by both the Department of Biotechnology and the Law Ministry, over the years.
  • In 2019, it was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on S&T after being introduced in the Lok Sabha.
  • In 2021, the panel’s report was released, which highlighted that the Bill could be misused to target segments of society based on religion, caste or political views.

 

About the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill:

  • It seeks to create a regulatory framework for obtaining, storing and testing DNA samples of human beings –
    • Mainly for the purposes of criminal investigations, and
    • With the objective of establishing the identity of a person.
  • The proposed law seeks to bring in a supervisory structure
    • To oversee practices (already used in criminal investigations, establishment of parentage, and search for missing people), and
    • Frame guidelines and rules so that the DNA technology is not misused.
  • It also specifies –
    • The circumstances under which a person can be asked to submit DNA samples,
    • The purposes for which such requests can be made, and
    • The exact procedure for handling, storing and accessing these samples.

 

The Bill proposes to set up institutional structures:

  • At the national level,
    • DNA regulatory board: The board is proposed to be the main regulatory authority and would frame the rules and guidelines for DNA collection, testing and storage.
    • DNA data bank: It would be the repository of all DNA samples collected from various people under specified rules.
  • Regional centres of the board as well as the data bank can be set up at the state level too.

 

Powers of the DNA regulatory board: The testing of DNA samples can be carried out only at laboratories that are authorised to do so by the regulatory board.

 

Objections against the Bill:

  • Three issues – whether DNA technology is foolproof, whether the provisions adequately address the possibility of abuse of DNA information, and whether the privacy of the individual is protected.
  • DNA information can be extremely revelatory and collecting and storing such intrusive information could lead to abuse and violation of a person’s privacy.

 

The government’s argument:

  • Nearly 60 countries have enacted similar legislation and all important matters related to privacy, confidentiality and data protection have been taken into account.
  • Very limited information is proposed to be stored in the indices, which can tell nothing about the individual and only act as a unique identifier.

 

Why is Bill withdrawn?

As per reports, most of the provisions of the Bill were broadly covered in the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act 2022 brought by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

 

Insta Links:

DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill 2019