Emphasising on the need for a nationwide deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) database of criminal offenders in India, experts from the fields of forensic sciences and police in a web seminar on Wednesday stated that a centralized DNA database would be monumental in thwarting violent sexual crimes and ensuring that repeat offenders stay off the streets.
Attended by JM Vyas, Vice Chancellor of National Forensic Sciences University in Gandhinagar, Dr K Thangaraj, director, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), Dr DK Goswami, Inspector General of Police, Uttar Pradesh, Vanessa Lynch, senior consultant for the Gordon Thomas Honeywell – Governmental Affairs (GTH GA) among others, the webinar focused on the DNA Technology Regulation Bill that has been pending before the Lok Sabha since 2019.
The Bill revolves around the need for a centralized database of offenders, suspects, unknown deceased persons and crime scene profiling.
“The DNA Bill pending before Parliament for approval provides procedure and monitoring of DNA data bank of accused, unknown deceased, suspect persons as well as crime scene profiles. This will help to establish the identity of perpetrators of heinous crimes like rape, murder, disputed paternity, among others. At the same time, this Bill will also help exonerate innocents from prosecution,” said Dr Vyas.
Vanessa Lynch, senior consultant for the Gordon Thomas Honeywell – Governmental Affairs (GTH GA) gave the example of South Africa which recently witnessed the passing of the DNA Act.
“Since then, we have particularly seen violent sexual offenders linked to as many as 30 crimes from hits on the DNA Database. The retention and storage of forensic DNA profiles and in some instances, DNA samples, whilst raising some privacy concerns, is still considered to be important in the fight against crime, particularly against gender-based violence and femicide where there is little to no argument against the value of forensic DNA profiling to identify offenders,” said Vanessa.
Dr K Thangaraj of the CDFD also stated that establishing a DNA database would require cooperation between law enforcement agencies, policy makers and forensic laboratories.
“DNA databases help in establishing the link between previous cases and present unsolved cases. They are effective in solving investigations because the majority of crimes are committed by repeat offenders and criminals. It would be very useful in tracing multiple/repeated offenders, wherever they are,” said Dr Thangaraj.
“Accreditation of laboratories and procedures, cognitive biases of actors at various levels, competence of experts are several intertwined areas which need attention to maximise advantage of DNA strength in evidencing,” said Dr Goswami.
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