DNA Fingerprinting

DNA Fingerprinting

This article deals with ‘DNA Fingerprinting  – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology’ which is important pillar of GS-3 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What is DNA Fingerprinting ?

  • Also called DNA typing, DNA profiling, genetic fingerprinting, genotyping, or identity testing
  • DNA profiling, or DNA fingerprinting, is a forensic method used to identify a person using unique signature found in her DNA.
  • In this, DNA samples are matched to prove the identity of person. The most commonly used technique is Short Tandem Repeat Technique but we needn’t go into detail of how it is done . Just knowing the name of technique is more than enough for us.

Uses

  • Identify criminals &  convicts in cases of murder and rape
  • Powerful tool for settling paternity disputes and identifying dead persons
  • Used for detecting genetic disorder , pedigree analysis and identifying genetic stock

In India

  • Pioneering work was done by Lalji Singh  at Centre for Cell and Molecular Biology (CCMB) , Hyderabad
  • Other centres are :
    • Centre for DNA Fingerprinting  & Diagnostics (CDFD) Hyderabad
    • Central Forensic Science Laboratory , Kolkata

DNA Based Technologies(Use & Regulation) Act, 2018

Introduction

There are large number of

  • Missing persons
  • Unclaimed dead bodies

DNA fingerprinting can help & government is trying to come up with Bill

There are other uses too

  • Maternity & paternity issues to know about real parents
  • Rape case convict can be found using DNA
  • Evidence of presence of person on scene of crime
  • DNA is accepted as evidence under Evidence Act. Hence, can help in  increasing conviction rate

Issues with DNA fingerprinting

  • Lack of regulation
  • Privacy issue
  • Lack of DNA Labs and Experts
  • Unscientific forensic data collection technique by police

Working

  • Use of DNA Data:  DNA testing is allowed only in respect of matters listed in the schedule to the Bill (such as,  paternity suits).
  • Permission for use of DNA Data:  While preparing a DNA profile,
        • Authorities are required to obtain consent for collection  if offence carries a punishment of up to 7 years.
        • If the offence carries more than seven years of imprisonment or death, consent is not required.
  • Two new bodies will be created (PB & DB)
DNA Regulatory Board
  • To supervise  DNA Data Banks and DNA Laboratories.
DNA Data Bank

(National & State)

  • Data Banks will store DNA profiles received from DNA laboratories
  • Protection of information: 
        • Board is required to ensure that all information relating to DNA profiles with the Data Banks, laboratories and other persons are kept confidential
        • DNA data can only be used for identification of the person (and not for extracting any other information (like Health Vulnerabilities to be used by Insurance companies))
  • Option for deletion of data – There is also provision for defined instances for deletion of profiles and destruction of DNA profiles (like if chargesheeted person whose DNA samples have been stored in DNA Data Bank has been aquitted by Court)
  • Penalties: Any violation would attract imprisonment up to three years and a fine up to 1 lakhs.
Issues
Privacy Issues 

  • In absence of any Data Protection Act, DNA information stored in Data Bank can be vulnerable

Technology

  • Critics say that DNA Matching tech is not entirely foolproof . There are chances ,even if very low of erronous results
  • Problems of cross-contaminating samples, mislabelling samples, misrepresenting test results and intentionally planting DNA

Unscientific investigation

  • In India, instead of forensic investigators and scientists, an untrained constable goes to crime scene first, who does not know how to scientifically collect evidences and in the process destroys vital DNA evidence

Lack of DNA examiners

  • according to international practice one DNA examiner can take 100 cases per year . As of now there are 40,000 unclaimed dead bodies each year & 400 examiners required but. India has total of 35-40 examiners .

No improvement in conviction rates

  • Over  last 25 years; most countries have adopted a DNA fingerprinting law and have developed databases for use primarily in criminal investigation, disaster identification and forensic science. However, DNA tests have not led to an improvement in conviction rates in countries where it is already being followed.

Pros

Is already happening , Better to do it in regulated way

  • Experts say that apprehensions of data misuse & privacy are more in case of absence of regulation

Privacy

  • Very limited information is proposed to be stored (just 13 sets of numbers out of billions ) . This can tell nothing about individual except to act as unique identifier
  • Moreover , DNA will be collected from very limited persons those in conflict with law

Utility

  • We need to move from eyewitness evidences to forensic evidence of which DNA is integral part

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