DNA act in the offing
The government is preparing a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) act, 2013 with a section allowing the forced collection of samples from non-cooperative individuals for DNA profiling, albeit after a court order.
The court, which must first be convinced that the individual was involved in a crime, can order the “arrest of the individual till the sample is collected”, states the draft.
The draft, comprising nine chapters and 61 sections, was prepared by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and recently approved in principle by the cabinet.
The draft would be placed before the parliament during the ongoing session, Secretary to the ministry Tariq-ul-Islam told The Daily Star recently.
“Through the act's formulation, DNA will be legally recognised as a tool for court evidence in criminal cases. It will help authorities bring perpetrators to justice and restrain people from misusing DNA reports,” he said.
According to National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory (NFDPL) sources, DNA, as a term, is not mentioned in any of the country's laws. DNA reports, as evidence, were being submitted before courts as per Evidence Act, 1872.
The draft sought for a unified authority to, among other activities, prepare guidelines in using DNA reports as court evidence by law enforcers in criminal cases and for the “state's use in other important activities”.
The authority, to be called DNA Advisory Council and with the ministry's secretary as the chairman, would comprise experts on molecular biology, human genetics, biochemistry, social science and law and two government officials.
The draft also states for forming a “National DNA Database” by the NFDPL chief.
It would comprise a “Crime Scene Index”, involving the DNA profiles collected from a crime scene, and a “Convicted Offender Index”, DNA profiles of convicted criminals.
NFDPL National Technical Adviser Prof Sharif Akhteruzzaman said the database would help police tackle crimes by linking crimes and identify suspects in the long run.
He opined that the database could also incorporate DNA profiles of unidentified bodies so that a match is possible with missing persons even decades later.
As per the act, the database team will also be able to exchange information with international law enforcement agencies. The draft sought up to a seven-year jail term or a Tk 2 lakh fine or both for those running unauthorised DNA laboratories or organisations.
Salma Ali, executive director of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association, told The Daily Star that once passed by parliament, the act would help in the fast disposal of sensitive cases involving sexual offences and in deciding parental identities.
“But everybody needs to be aware about its proper implementation,” she said.