A bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday to set up DNA data banks across India to store profiles and crack difficult criminal cases such as rape, murder and human trafficking and establish identities of unclaimed dead bodies and victims of disasters.
The proposed law will support and strengthen the justice delivery system in the country.
It also states that 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, based on the one prepared by the Law Commission recently, says that national and regional DNA data banks will be set up for maintaining a national database for identification of suspects in cases, under trials, victims, missing persons and unidentified human remains.
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 one lakh. Similar, punishment has also been provided for those who seek the information on DNA profiles illegally.
The bill's provisions will enable the cross-matching between persons who have been reported missing and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country, and also for establishing the identity of victims of mass disasters.
Opposing the bill, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Congress) expressed apprehension that the law enforcing and investigating agencies could misuse the DNA samples. Chowdury said as the bill provides for collection of DNA samples, willing or unwillingly, it is a "gross violation" of the principles laid down in the Constitution.
He also urged that the legislation be forwarded to the competent experts for scrutiny. Responding to the concerns raised by Chowdhury, Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan, who introduced the bill, said the legislation was initiated by the then NDA government headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee and since then it has undergone scrutiny at all level.
It has also been cleared by a committee comprising the Home Minister, Law Minister and himself, Vardhan said. Vardhan assured that care has been taken by the government to ensure that privacy remains paramount.
(With agency inputs)