Ground Report | New Delhi: ‘DNA Bill; India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP ) government is enacting legislation to collect and use genetic data to tackle crime, which technologists and human rights groups say is proposed. The law can target people’s private lives and minorities, especially Muslims.
The proposed law, dubbed the ‘DNA Technology Regulation Bill’, aims to profile crime victims, suspects, and missing persons and store data in national and regional data banks. The law will also establish a DNA regulatory board.
The bill was introduced in parliament in February and is expected to be passed in the current session, which runs until August 31. Proponents of the right to privacy say that in a country where minority groups are disproportionately portrayed as criminals, data can be misused to profile a particular caste or community. The law is also likely to violate the right to privacy because there is no law in the country to protect private data.
“The bill is being drafted for several purposes, but the main concern is the lack of clarity on what data will be stored in this regard,” said Shambhuvi Naik, of the Takshashila Institution’s technology and policy program. He added: “This will raise concerns about private information as DNA can also reveal information about any person’s relatives and ancestors.”
According to official figures, about 40,000 unidentified bodies are found in India every year and more than 60,000 children go missing. “There is no taboo in the use of DNA technology and its use can reduce the likelihood of errors in criminal investigations and improve the justice system,” said Jayaram Ramesh, head of the parliamentary committee that worked out the details of the bill.
Ramesh, who belongs to the opposition party, said: “The bill ensures security arrangements to prevent violations of the right to privacy. Definitely, more security measures should be considered as we gain more experience using the technology.
A spokesman for India’s Ministry of Information Technology did not respond to a request for comment. Asaduddin Owaisi, a Muslim MP, said DNA could reveal sensitive information that could be used to convict a community or caste. He said the majority of those arrested on suspicion in the country belonged to the Dalit, Muslim, or local Adivasi communities.