Tuesday, August 25, 2009

India's Brahman Call for national DNA biometrics


A national DNA databank can help an investigator handling a blind crime, but human rights concerns and a huge backlog of cases are major hurdles.

A recent case in the U.S. highlights how a well-managed national DNA databank can come to the rescue of an investigator handling an otherwise blind crime. It relates to the disappearance of Laura Garza, a 25-year-old Brooklyn woman, in December 2008. (According to a MySpace notice, she is yet to be traced.) She was last seen alive in the company of one Michael Mele (23), who was arrested a few days after Laura went missing for an entirely unrelated offence of lewd sexual behaviour in public and in the immediate presence of a child. Mele was found to have a criminal record for sexual deviance, and traces of DNA picked up from his car (in which he travelled with Laura) and the damaged carpet of his house cooked his goose. Laura or her remains, if Mele did murder her, are yet to be traced. But all evidence points to Mele’s participation in the episode. There are any number of such clueless cases having been solved by the police in many parts of the world, and courts have been convinced with the DNA evidence adduced by the prosecution.

However, two major problems make the use of DNA evidence a tortuous exercise: a huge backlog of cases awaiting laboratory results and human rights concerns of the ever-enlarging DNA databases. In these days of extreme mobility, it does not make sense to construct and manage a narrow database of only local criminals and suspects.

Both the U.K. and the U.S. have nationwide databases of DNA profiles, in addition to local ones. Notwithstanding India’s population of more than a billion, it seems expedient to attempt such a database in India. Nandan Nilekani’s Unique ID number project can possibly throw up ideas for the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for designing a national DNA database. :::MORE HERE:::


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