Writing Technology-neutral Law: the Human DNA Profiling Bill 2015 in India

Hans Verghese Mathews of the Centre for Internet and Society, Bengaluru writes:

Legislation that seeks to regulate technology must be up for scrutiny by judges and lawyers. And since the inner workings of a technology will be familiar only to specialists and expert practitioners, the phrasing of such laws must avoid technical details where possible. When the uses and products of technology can be specified closely, one feels such details can well be ignored and the requirement that the writing of law should be “technology-neutral,” in this way, seems innocuous enough. But the uses and products of technology will seldom be full of technical details; with an emergent or a changeable technology the neutrality required of the law might concede too much discretionary power to the specialists. But it is in such circumstances, precisely, that neutrality is a desideratum: for technical details would necessitate frequent revisions in law that seeks to regulate a mutating “techne”—the frequent revision of a law would not be a good thing.

To consider the matter generally would be difficult, and we shall only look at a particular example in this article. The Government of India is proposing a Human DNA (Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid) Profiling Act, the preamble to which declares that its coordinate purposes are to, one, regulate the use of analysis of human body substance profiles for human identification; two, establish a DNA Profiling Board that would lay down appropriate standards for laboratories in terms of collecting human body substances and managing the custody trail from collection to reporting; and three, establish a National DNA Data Bank.

Read the full article in Economic and Political Weekly