The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Bill and the Personal Data Protection Bill, likely to come up in the ongoing winter session of Parliament, provide a framework and safeguards for using our data by businesses and the government.
Laws are blunt instruments. Changes brought by them reverberate throughout the country. Sometimes the scale of a law's impact blurs its importance for an individual. And at times, their direct influence on each of us brings home the enormity of the government's legislative proposal. Two laws that fall in the latter category are currently pending in Parliament. These laws provide a framework and safeguards for using our data by businesses and the government. The first law is the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Bill, and the other one is the Personal Data Protection Bill.
A common theme in television crime dramas is the police collecting DNA, like a strand of hair or saliva from a drinking glass and matching it against a database to identify the bad guys. In India, there is no law regulating the use of DNA technology. The government addressed this gap by introducing a bill in Parliament. The bill authorises the collection of DNA of an individual for investigating criminal offences. It specifies that when the police arrest a person for a crime whose punishment is less than seven years, they have to obtain their written consent before taking bodily substances containing their DNA.
If the person does not agree to give his DNA, the police can only do it through a court order. A judge will only issue such an order on being satisfied that DNA will make the individual's involvement in the crime clearer. But if the crime carries a punishment of more than seven years, then the police don't need consent for collecting DNA for their investigations. The bill also allows for the use of DNA technology in deciding parentage, for identifying abandoned children or unidentified human remains (for example, in cases of a natural disaster).