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Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Act, 2014: A New Era in Criminal Justice System of Bangladesh

DNA is the abbreviation for Deoxyribonucleic Acid, which is the genetic material present in the nucleus of cells in all living organisms. DNA has been called the building block or genetic blueprint of life, was first described by the scientists Francis H. C. Crick and James D. Watson on 1953. In little more than a decade, DNA evidence has become the foremost forensic technique for identifying perpetrators, and eliminating suspects, when biological tissues such as saliva, skin, blood, hair, or semen are left at a crime scene.

During the mid-1980s, the potential application of DNA typing or profiling was initiated by laboratories in the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), and Canada. In USA first use of forensic DNA analysis in criminal case in Pennsylvania v. Pestinikas, on 1986. The first DNA based conviction in the United States occurred shortly after 1987 in the case Andrews v. State, 533 So. 2d 841 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1988), when the Circuit Court in Orange County, Florida, convicted Tommy Lee Andrews of rape after DNA tests matched his DNA from a blood sample with that of semen traces found in a rape victim and United States v. Yee, 134 F.R.D. 161, 208 (N.D. Ohio 1991) case recognized the pre-trial hearing on admissibility of DNA evidence.

Although several objections with regard to the forensic use of DNA databases have been raised, ,these involve the collection and testing processes, elements of a fair trial, also in relation to human identification issues, the freedom or liberty, secrecy, autonomy and privacy interest of individuals are highly connected. But on this matter, Article 27(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that: Everyone has the right to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. This is reinforced by Article 15(1)(b) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which recognizes the right of everyone: To enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications. Very recently the practice of collection and use of DNA information to solve criminal cases has also begun in Bangladesh. The application of DNA testing for the case investigation process has opened a new opportunity for identifying criminals in Bangladesh. Recently, RAB conducted DNA tests on slain journalist couple Sagar Sarowar and his wife Meherun Runi to identify the killers. In the case of Bangladesh Jatiyo Mahila Ainjibi Samity v. Bangladesh, Writ Petition No. 5359 of 2006, The High Court Division solved the case by Sibling DNA testing conducted in order to determine if two or more children share one or both biological parents in common. It was alleged that the Former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) of Bangladesh and his wife Mrs. Anwara Rahman used to procure seven children of various ages in order to traffic them out of the country but they claimed that they are the parent of those children’s. But Result of Sibling DNA Test shows that all the seven children are unlikely to be related to each other.

On 22 September 2014 Bangladesh government passed the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Act, 2014. The new law has a provision of maximum 10 years’ imprisonment and Taka five lakh fines for destroying, changing and tainting DNA samples and maximum five years’ jail and Taka three lakh fines for conducting illegal forensic DNA activities. It also has a provision of maximum three years’ imprisonment and Taka 50,000 fine for collecting samples and publishing DNA related information illegally and maximum two years’ jail and Taka 30,000 fine for unauthorized access to the national DNA database. Under the law government will establish a national DNA database. A national database would be prepared which will maintain secrecy of information about DNA profiling. Under the Law there will be an advisory committee. The state minister of the women and children affairs and secretary of the ministry and other persons concerned will be in the committee. There will also be a technical committee. A directorate will be created under the women and children affairs ministry under the Act. Only metropolitan magistrates or judicial magistrates will have the authority to try these offenses and also recognized admissibility of DNA evidence in the court, as per the law. Undoubtedly it is a unique law and start a new era in the criminal justice system of Bangladesh. The introduction of the DNA technology has posed serious challenge to some legal and functional rights of an individual such as “Right to privacy”, “Right against Self-incrimination.” So the DNA databases of genetic profiles should, therefore, be handled with the greatest respect and precautions in order to protect human privacy. It is, nonetheless, a remarkable new instrument in the armor of crime detection, with much potential for future application.

A. Z. M. Arman Habib

A. Z. M. Arman Habib

A. Z. M. Arman Habib is pursuing LL.M. (International Law) at Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University, New Delhi.
A. Z. M. Arman Habib

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