Not ready for DNA profiling

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on January 24, 2018


A Bill on the subject requires detailed debate before it is passed

This April, UK’s ITV Network aired Code of a Killer, a two-part docudrama based on an idea that has caught the Indian government’s fancy — DNA profiling. The drama tells how in 1984, British geneticist Alec Jeffreys discovered DNA fingerprinting, helping detective David Baker nab double murderer Colin Pitchfork in 1986. The Union government is toying with the idea of using DNA profiling to curb crime, and wants Parliament to pass The Human DNA Profiling Bill (2012). The Bill, which was first mooted during the NDA rule and was followed up by the UPA, has triggered controversy. It envisages the setting up of a national DNA database and machinery to use DNA profiles in the investigation of criminal and civil disputes. Experts say the DNA profiling data can be misused. For instance, insurance companies can delay or deny claims of people with certain genetic traits, or companies can hire people based on their genetic predisposition. There are chances of wrongful convictions and targeting.

In a country where even a dog could get an Aadhaar card, which also requires some degree of biometric detail, clearly we are not ready for DNA profiling. The haste with which the government is trying to get it passed is worrying. DNA technology can enhance crime investigations — as many as 60 countries use it in criminal proceedings — but the government must make sure valid concerns are sorted out.

There is also the question of costs. Till August 2014, the government had spent over ₹5,000 crore on the ambitious Aadhaar programme. DNA profiling will call for equally mammoth investments. It is an idea whose time has just not come in India.

Jinoy Jose P Senior Assistant Editor

Published on July 27, 2015

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