Demand grows, but DNA tests fall under a grey area -Krishnadas Rajagopal and Sreeparna Chakrabarty
While Supreme Court has voiced concerns over their increasing use to prove a case, women’s rights activists deem the technology an empowering tool
Deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA tests occupy a grey area in the quest for justice, vacillating between the dangers of slipping into self-incrimination and encroachment of individual privacy and the ‘eminent need’ to unearth the truth, be in the form of evidence in a criminal case, a claim of marital infidelity or proving paternity.
More and more complainants are seeking DNA tests — a senior official associated with a government laboratory estimates such requests increasing by around 20% each year. DNA Forensics Laboratory Private Limited, one of the biggest centres which is accredited with the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), says it tests around 300-400 samples each month that are both private requests and court-mandated. The numbers were only around 30-40 till five years ago.
The Supreme Court has recently held — in a case concerning a woman known only as ‘XX’ to protect her identity — that compelling an unwilling person to undergo a DNA test would be a violation of his/her personal liberty and right to privacy, turning the spotlight on the spreading use of a technology that aids the cause of justice on the one hand but violates privacy on the other. But the issue is problematised by the varying stances of both the apex court and High Courts that tend to focus on the particularities of each case.
Women’s rights activists, however, hold that a DNA test is the only tool which can deliver justice in cases of abandonment of mothers and children.
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The Hindu, 30 October, 2022, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/as-demand-grows-court-mandated-dna-tests-walk-the-fine-line-between-justice-and-privacy/article66073844.ece?homepage=true