Privacy activists are concerned that the data could be used for caste-based or community profiling  in a country where minority groups are disproportionately criminalised.

A proposed Indian law on the collection and use of genetic data to tackle crime can violate privacy and target marginalised and minority communities disproportionately, according to human rights groups.

The DNA Technology Regulation Bill will allow the profiling of victims, suspects, missing persons, as well as the storage of their DNA information in national and regional data banks. The bill also aims to set up a DNA Regulatory Board. 

Tabled in parliament in February this year, the bill is expected to be passed in the current sessions that runs until August 31. 

Many privacy advocates have raised their questions, stating that the data can be misused for caste-based or community profiling in a country where minority groups are disproportionately criminalised. 

“The bill creates an umbrella databank for multiple purposes; the main concern is the lack of clarity on what data may be stored,” said Shambhavi Naik, a research fellow at Takshashila Institution’s technology and policy programme.

“There are privacy concerns because DNA discloses information about one’s relatives and ancestors, as well,” she added.

In support of the bill, Jairam Ramesh, head of the parliamentary committee explained that the use of the DNA technology will minimise errors in criminal investigations and “improve the justice delivery system.”

Ramesh added that the bill will provide for safeguards “to ensure privacy is not violated wantonly and egregiously. More safeguards should certainly be considered as we gain further experience with the use of technology.”

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