DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill – 2019 introduced by Union Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Harsh Vardhan has come under scrutiny from the privacy activists after the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change submitted its report in February 2021. The Committee asked the government to allay the fears raised over the Bill, including over the creation of a national data bank that can be used to target communities. The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 8th, 2019, and was referred to the Standing Committee on October 17th, 2019. Also Read: COVID-19 vaccines: How do mRNA coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna work
What is “DNA Bill, 2019”: According to the Indian government, the primary intended purpose of the Bill is for expanding the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country. The Bill also talks about the establishment of the National and Regional DNA Data Banks.
Broad view: Privacy activists say that Bill will be used to classify and categorize individuals based on DNA, detain criminals, formulate criteria for genetic profiling, and govern the use of DNA characteristics of a person. A supervisory board will counsel govt on related subjects, give accreditation to labs, and create data banks.
The Standing Committee highlighted the need for the Indian government to communicate concerns about the mismanagement and misapplication of DNA technology. Two Committee members registered protest notes, as the Bill may permit profiling of sidelined communities and attack privacy. Also Read: No indication that new coronavirus variants will affect the immune impact of vaccine: China CDC
Why should you care: DNA profiling possibly will fail confidentiality standards from the Supreme Court’s key privacy judgements, as the Bill was drafted before the Puttaswamy judgement. Even basic standards of consent may be overthrown.
Additionally, India does not have enough capacity and capability in DNA technology space and this could hamper DNA analysis. The fact has also been recognized by the country’s legal system. Additionally, the unselective use of DNA technology to demonstrate guilt has been disapproved both internationally and in Indian courts. Also Read: COVID-19 Impact: Drug overdose deaths rising globally amid coronavirus pandemic with over 81,000 fatalities reported in US
The Bill talks about “discretionary powers” that can allow the government to supersede the regulatory board trough simple notification. Also Read: Japan begins COVID-19 vaccination drive; healthcare workers among first to get Pfizer shots