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DNA investigation: where does India lags?

Context:

  • The law machinery world over is increasingly relying on DNA forensics to solve crime, whereas India is lagging behind in adoption.
  • It is time to take a serious look at how this technology, that has become crucial in establishing both guilt and innocence.

What is DNA?

  • DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms.
  • Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA.

Where is DNA located?

  • Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA).
  • DNA can typically be extracted from blood and semen stains on clothes or on the body, from hair and teeth (with roots), and even from bones and flesh if they are not completely charred.

What is the structure of DNA?

  • DNA is a long, double stranded molecule that consists of two single molecular chains wrapped around each other.
  • Each strand consists of a series of bases connected to each other through a backbone of sugar molecules.

Four bases of DNA:

  • There are four different bases: adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine.
  • They are very frequently referred to simply by their first initials: A, G, C and T.
  • The order of those bases on a strand of DNA is called the
  • The sequence on one strand of DNA is matched by a complementary sequence on its opposite, matched strand.

Why DNA is called the blueprint of life?

  • DNA is called the “blueprint of life” because it contains the instructions needed for an organism to grow, develop, survive and reproduce.
  • Every organism that we know of depends upon proteins to live and DNA is the macromolecule that stores the information needed to create all the proteins needed for life.
  • The proteins that DNA enables the encoding of come together to forms cells, tissues, and organs.
  • Whatever it is that organizes those proteins together could be thought of as the blueprint for those structures.

What is DNA fingerprinting?

  • DNA fingerprinting is a method used to identify an individual from a sample of DNA.
  • It simultaneously detects lots of minisatellites in the genome to produce a pattern unique to an individual.
  • The probability of having two people with the same DNA fingerprint that are not identical twins is very small.

How can DNA fingerprinting be a useful tool in investigating crime?

  • DNA fingerprinting as a tool of investigation is very accurate.
  • It extends to the way it can separate through crime scene evidence.
  • Advanced DNA fingerprinting can make separate prints of various individuals even from a sample mixture found at the crime scene.
  • For example: In a gangrape case, DNA fingerprinting can identify each of the individuals involved in the act through one sample.
  • In such cases, it becomes the clinching evidence against the accused, and also helps vindicate those whose samples do not match.

What are the benefits in implementing DNA based investigations?

  • It is an easy and painless method for the subject being tested.
  • It is an affordable and reliable technique.
  • Anyone at any age can be tested with this method without any major concerns.
  • There is a large variety of uses such as in legal claims, missing persons cases, identification for the military, and paternity and prenatal testing

What are the problems in implementing DNA based investigations?

  • The sample of DNA can easily be ruined during the process, causing the sample to become completely useless for testing
  • The process itself is complex and tedious.
  • It can give results that may be hard to interpret.
  • Privacy issues could occur if the information isn’t kept secure at the lab.

What are the problems in implementing DNA based investigations in India?

  • The state police forces are yet to be trained in conducting such scientific investigations.
  • There is also a serious scarcity of capacity for DNA fingerprinting in the country.
  • Advanced practices in the technology are limited to the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) in Hyderabad.
  • There are also several private labs that offer DNA testing, but all work under an unregulated environment.
  • Though DNA testing is done in criminal cases in India, the instances were very low compared to other countries. 
  • It breaches the Right to Privacy, personal information if leaked, could potentially complicate insurance processes, health care and job prospects for an individual.

Way ahead:

  • Government and police should increase the use of DNA testing in solving crimes.
  • There should be adequate and high-level training sessions for DNA investigation.
  • They should set up a board which will lay down procedures and standards.
  • There are recommendations for amendments in Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and Indian Evidence Act, 1872, to include scientific investigation in crimes.
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