In Focus

DNA Profiling - Inherent risk of arbitrariness and presumption of guilt - A DraftCraft Report

Team DF | Mumbai

A DNA test is popularly considered as 'conclusive evidence' but sadly tends to charge the accused with a 'presumed guilt' until the findings arrive which may go on to prove innocence albeit a wee late. There's an urgent need to monitor arbitrary DNA testing which if done frivolously causes irretrievable harm to the reputation of a suspect and loss of work, affects quality of life and credibility.

It's an outright violation of human rights if committed arbitrarily or in excess. In the case of the triple Cuffe Parade rape-murders, the police have embarked on a manhunt of sorts and, in the bargain, undertaken 916 DNA tests till date. With about 200-odd results having arrived, the police maintain that it's the slow pace at which the DNA testing labs have been providing results that has stalled investigations.

Cuffe Parade's slum-dwellers are petrified of the police and claim that they pick them up at odd hours to question them and have taken their DNAs. Even a victim's mother, father, grandfather and great-grandmother claim that the police have been harassing them unduly In view of an attempt to pass a law making DNA profiling mandatory, the issue beings into focus the various facets that need to be examined before such a law is cleared. At the Centre, the UPA government is set to introduce a DNA Profiling Bill in the winter session of Parliament. Once a law, the government will have the authority to collect huge amounts of sensitive DNA data of citizens even if they are 'suspects' in a criminal case. The data will be held till the person is cleared by court.

There are fears of privacy issues as the law empowers the government to create intrusive databases. The contention here is that once a person's DNA is collected, he is presumed 'guilty' by neighbours, family members, friends even work colleagues bringing normalcy to a screeching halt. By the time the DNA test's results are revealed to him, the harm is done. It almost translates into presumption of guilt until proved anti-thesis of what our legal system pivots on...the presumption of innocence. Also, there are legal issues of consent, viability of evidence and other issues that need to be examined.

Simply resorting to seemingly arbitrary or random collection of DNA samples of the 900-odd 'suspects' is excessive, bad in law and a case appropriate for the intervention of the state human rights commission. A check is well in order.