IFF submits comments to the Standing Committee on Science & Tech highlighting worries with the DNA Bill, 2019.

The DNA Bill has been re-introduced in the Lok Sabha and also referred to the Standing Committee on Science and Technology which has invited comments. We had a lot of comments.

19 November, 2019
3 min read


The DNA Bill is back. The DNA Bill aims to regulate the use and outputs of DNA technology in certain cases and has been the subject of many a debate. It was introduced once again in July 2019 in the Lok Sabha after having lapsed in 2018. It was then referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change on October 18.  The Committee invited comments on the Bill till November 18 and oh, did we have a lot of comments.

What's it all about?

India has been attempting to introduce legislation that regulates DNA technology since the early 2000's but thankfully has been largely unsuccessful until recently, making our fears quite real. The current DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 has seen a number of redrafts bringing it to its present form and yet continues to be problematic.

We're grateful to be able to voice these concerns as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change has invited comments on the Bill after it was referred to them. Unfortunately, as submissions made cannot be fully public prior to the Committee publishing their report, so we highlight our major concerns to give you an understanding of why we think the DNA Bill not only needs to undergo further work but also needs to be introduced only after a solid data protection law is in place.

A few of our very many concerns

  • No data protection legislative framework: With no overarching data protection legislation in India, the lack of obligation within the Bill to ensure protection especially by the DNA Laboratory as a either mere collectors or even processors of the DNA collected, have no alternative safeguards in place to remedy data breaches or ensure informed consent. Similarly, there is nothing to govern the sharing of such sensitive data, ensuring purpose limitation is maintained.
  • Profiling and surveillance: DNA profiles can reveal extremely sensitive information about an individual such as their skin colour, illness, susceptibility to diseases and any access to such intrusive information can be misused to specifically target individuals with their own genetic data and is particularly worrying as it could be used to incorrectly link a particular caste/community to criminal activities. Further, in the event that such a databases are then linked to others worrying databases in existence, it is bound to give rise to Government conducted mass surveillance.
  • Overbroad provisions: Our submission tackles the lack of legitimate use by the Bill; it indicates that DNA technology intends to be used for extremely wide criminal and civil purposes (alarm bells are ringing). We argue that the Bill as such extensive databasing of DNA data requires to meet the conditions set by the Supreme Court's judgement in Puttaswamy of which one is a greater public purpose, the databasing of DNA used in civil cases does not fulfill this criteria. Further, even within criminal cases, there is need to limit the collection of DNA to the investigation and prosecution of cognizable crimes to ensure the data in the DNA database is minimal and controlled.

The submission details a plethora of other concerns ranging from lack of privacy safeguards such as no informed consent, storage and sharing of information and the power of the DNA profiling board.

We are grateful that the Committee has invited non-official witnesses/experts to provide their views on November 27 and hope that both written and oral submissions that come their way will be taken into strong consideration, resulting in the suggestion of a much required revising of the Bill.

Important Documents:

  1. Cover letter attached to the call for comments on the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation, 2019 by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change dated 18.11.2019 [link]

Want the Government to know you inside-out? Didn't think so. Become an IFF member today!

Subscribe to our newsletter, and don't miss out on our latest updates.

Similar Posts

Your personal data, their political campaign? Beneficiary politics and the lack of law

As the 2024 elections inch closer, we look into how political parties can access personal data of welfare scheme beneficiaries and other potential voters through indirect and often illicit means, to create voter profiles for targeted campaigning, and what the law has to say about it.

6 min read

Press Release: Civil society organisations express urgent concerns over the integrity of the 2024 general elections to the Lok Sabha

11 civil society organisations wrote to the ECI, highlighting the role of technology in affecting electoral outcomes. The letter includes an urgent appeal to the ECI to uphold the integrity of the upcoming elections and hold political actors and digital platforms accountable to the voters. 

2 min read

IFF Explains: How a vulnerability in a government cloud service could have exposed the sensitive personal data of 2,50,000 Indian citizens

In January 2022, we informed CERT-In about a vulnerability in S3WaaS, a platform developed for hosting government websites, which could expose sensitive personal data of 2,50,000 Indians. The security researcher who identified the vulnerability confirmed its resolution in March 2024.

5 min read

Donate to IFF

Help IFF scale up by making a donation for digital rights. Really, when it comes to free speech online, digital privacy, net neutrality and innovation — we got your back!