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Faculty Seminar | Co-producing India’s National DNA Data Bank: Bio-legality and the Question of Privacy


Conference Hall, Training Centre, NLSIU


Wednesday, July 13, 2022, 4:30 pm


Dr. Manpreet Singh Dhillon, Academic Fellow, NLSIU


DNA databases have become part of the governance of crime in sixty countries, and the project is expanding across the globe with many more countries building their database capability. India has been on a project to build a national DNA database since 2003 but despite many different drafts of the DNA bill being made public since 2007, the database has not been operationalized. This paper provides a brief historical outline of the evolution of DNA fingerprinting and databasing in India and argues that the lack of a transparent, inclusive and deliberative decision-making exercise has ensured that crucial questions pertaining to privacy and human rights still remain unaddressed. The rise of privacy as a global discourse has questioned the bio-legal co-production of the National DNA Data Bank as a sociotechnical assemblage in India. Currently, the database is constructed through a techno-bureaucratic forensic imaginary which does not take human rights seriously. I conclude by asserting that since India is a liberal democratic State, a robust, independent and accountable privacy governance regime should be a pre-requisite to operationalizing the National DNA Data Bank. This requires due consideration for the sociocultural, ethical and sociolegal aspects of the impact of the database. Doing otherwise would be akin to putting the cart before the horse.