The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that the Human DNA Profiling Bill was currently held up and hence it was not in a position to create a national DNA data bank. It cited privacy concerns, lack of experts and handful laboratories as the prime reasons for not being able to push the Bill aimed at profiling the accused of serious crimes, and unidentified dead.
“DNA Profiling Bill is at present held up because privacy concerns have been raised by certain experts and NGOs. These concerns are being addressed by an Expert Committee set up by the Department of Biotechnology,” the Ministry of Science and Technology stated in a recent affidavit, adding the Committee was awaiting relevant inputs on the matter.
The apex court had in July suggested the Centre to create a DNA data bank, while agreeing with a plea by NGO Lokniti Foundation that establishment of identity was an essential feature of individual dignity and the government must resort to modern scientific methods.
The proposal to create a national DNA data bank was originally mooted in 2007, but it was dropped to factor in ethical, moral and legal issues on the sensitive matter. Crafted by the Department of Biotechnology, the Bill allows Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) profiling to help national law enforcement agencies and others in crime investigation and civil proceedings.
The government said DNA profiling was a complex technology, and that these activities needed appropriate regulation to prevent the misuse of the samples and DNA profiles, which could be achieved by the provisions in the draft Human DNA Profiling Bill.
The government stated that the proposed framework required “large number of trained personnel, which the country does not have at the moment.” It said that as per the international standards, one DNA examiner can undertake 100 cases per year and hence, only for the purpose of identifying 40,000 unidentified dead bodies, India would need at least 400 examiners.
However, the government said, the country had only 30 to 40 DNA experts against an estimated requirement of around 800 technical examiners for its 1,200 million population. “Therefore, it is necessary to set up large number of DNA testing units with skilled personnel who are capable of handling forensic DNA testing for identification of unidentified dead bodies,” it said.
Further, the process is resource-intensive as Rs 20,000 is the average cost of each test and the estimated cost of identifying 40,000 bodies would be Rs 80 crore every year, in addition to the remuneration of the examiners and support staff.