IndiGen Project and Its Application in Criminal Law in India : Journal of Forensic Science and Medicine

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IndiGen Project and Its Application in Criminal Law in India

Sharma, Abhinav Vardhan; Bhardwaj, Somdutt1

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Journal of Forensic Science and Medicine 9(1):p 70-75, Jan–Mar 2023. | DOI: 10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_13_22
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India has more than 4500 distinct population which are different based on caste, tribe, religion, locations, physical features, social beliefs, and language. Genome India project was approved in February 2020 by the Ministry of Science and Technology to aim gene-mapping of 10,000 samples across India. The IndiGen program achieved the entire genome sequencing of the 1029 healthy Indians. Gene sequencing at population scale can now be benchmarked using this method. The ability to decode the genetic blueprint of Indians for diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases will be emerged further on. A national of different deoxyribonucleic acids (DNAs) is maintained by the government for the purpose of medical and matching the criminal DNAs during trials. The UK established its National DNA Database in 1995 by the name of National DNA Database. Australia has almost 8.37 million DNA profiles, which they are using as forensic data. It involves novel methods for monitoring and controlling behavior as well as redesigned means of administering justice, all of which contribute to the construction of new ideas of justice and social governance. DNA phenotyping can be included in the criminal justice system by the project to make it DNA database and DNA databank for the law. This goal can be accomplished by determining the distribution of the data of the genetic outlines by geographical zone and the following closeness of the reference sample to a probable area of origin.


India has 1.3 billion individuals, which nearly make 17% of the world’s whole population. This country possesses more than 4500 distinct population which are different based on caste, tribe, religion, locations, physical features, social beliefs, and language.[1] India is also a country that welcomes invasion from its neighboring regions. Indians believe in marrying in the same religion, region making it more tedious to conduct large-scale whole-genome studies. India is a country with over 50 distinct religions based on geographical regions; these religions exhibit a range of diversifications, further diversifying the possibility of gene-based alteration. Because the National deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) database is primarily used for genealogical purposes, it is critical for religious studies and the storage of genetic data. GenBank is a publicly accessible database that houses the sequences of various genomes under the supervision of genetic genealogists. However, India announced a Genome India project hoping to collect 10,000 samples in the first phase from different people across India.[2]


Genome is a genetic material of an organism. It is defines as the “organisms complete set of DNA.” Genome has all the information required to process, build and maintain an organism. The genome consists of all types of DNAs. The genome sequence is the complete set of nucleotides which make up of all the chromosomes of an individual. The majority of nucleotides are identical in a species but the location in double-helix model is slightly different. The most comprehensive collection of an individual’s genetic variation is provided by whole-genome sequencing.[3,4] We envision a paradigm shift away from microarray-based genotyping studies toward whole-genome sequencing as the cost of sequencing technology continues to decline. As technical barriers to human DNA sequencing decrease and the cost of whole-genome sequencing approaches $1000, whole-genome and protein-coding genome sequencing are becoming more widely used in clinical medicine. The development of new technologies in the field of genome sequencing has reduced the time required for the genome sequencing. The genome sequencing or gene mapping has given a good understanding nature of various diseases, the development of various interventions required for different ethnic groups.[5,6]

Genome India project was approved in February 2020 by the Ministry of Science and Technology to aim gene-mapping of 10,000 samples across India.[2] This project aims at knowing both horizontal and vertical diversity. Its aimed benefits are related to the health-care, agriculture industries. The genomics revolution will be collecting all the information for diversity but recording, making the data available for the purpose of law was not considered.[7,8] The gene design and the double helix model are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1:
The double helix model of deoxyribonucleic acid[ 64 , 65 ]


The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research India declared a project of sequencing of the whole genome of 1000 Indians from different diversities of India. This project was a part of the Indian genome project. Its report after large exercise was made available in February 2020 for genetic studies and clinical purposes.[9] The electronic database was made available with the data of 1029 individuals with single-allelic variants.[10] Globally, especially at the time of COVID-19 where the whole world was impacted by an RNA virus, the database was searched from over 27 countries.[11] The IndiGen program was launched in April 2019 by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to address the void left by the lack of whole-genome sequences from various Indian groups. The initiative sequenced the genomes of all 1,029 of the participants who self-identified as healthy Indians.[12] This enables the evaluation of the scalability of genome sequencing at population scale within a certain timeframe. The utility of such population-scaled database in the genetics was well defined. The management of genetic diseases has given a well-defined path to work on. The ability to decode the genetic blueprint of Indians for diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases will be emerged further on in precision medicine. In addition, the database can be used to identify markers for carrier screening, variants causing genetic illnesses, and to prevent adverse events, as well as to improve diagnostic and treatment efficiency by mining data on advanced capabilities on pharmacogenetic variants.

Through facts of these pharmacogenetic variants which are clinically actionable, the data extracted from the sequencing of genomes under the IndiGen project can also be used to identify markers for carrier screening, variants causing genetic diseases, and to prevent adverse events, as well as to improve diagnosis and optimize therapy. Researchers will be able to create an India-specific reference genome dataset and effectively impute chromosomal information using the phased data.[13] As per Dr. Vinod Scaria, senior scientist at the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, this resource can enable clinicians and researchers to comprehend genetics on a population and individual level.[10] The Indigenome card and the application having the data follow the privacy rules given by the Indian laws. This study is part of the “IndiGen” initiative and is also viewed as a forerunner to a much larger exercise involving other government ministries to map a broader swath of the country’s population. According to the project’s proponents, this will increase public awareness in India about genomes and the information that genes conceal about an individual’s susceptibility to disease.[10] The abstract of the IndiGen project is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2:
The graphical representation of the IndiGen project[ 10 ]


DNA technology has proven a worthy investigating tool for criminal lawyers.[14] From missing person’s identification to DNA fingerprinting, from governing rights to parenthood to saving a person from serious offenses DNA database is required. The DNA record may assist the criminal investigator in connecting between that suspect of a particular crime and other unsolved cases, as well as aid in the early identification of suspects.[15] The DNA database required constantly maintained profiles of the suspects and DNA collected from different crime scenes. Many cases were solved by running the DNA collected from the crime scene into the DNA database already present in the country and the criminal was found. Such cases increase the demand of National DNA banks.[16,17]


In 1975, there was a lack of DNA fingerprinting and testing, which resulted in a 28-year delay in granting Sigsbee the conviction for murder in the People versus Sigsbee case for murdering a 19-year-old woman. These instances have impacted and increased the demand for DNA databases at the national level.

It is energizing to watch how near India has come, 15 years later and increasingly, to passing such legislative measures. Concerned citizens should be aware that a primary component of the measure is the establishment of a DNA regulating body established by law to ensure data protection. The DNA technology used in this bill would generate only unique profiles. As a result, the profile could be highly beneficial in assisting law enforcement authorities in discovering criminals involved in future crimes.

DNA analysis was used to solve the mystery of 16-year-old Gudiya’s brutal gang rape and murder in Kotkai. In the cases of Priyadarshini Mattoo and Nirbhaya, the judges relied on DNA information to prove their judgments. Recently, the Supreme Court granted bail to an 84-year-old man charged with rape after DNA testing revealed that he is not the father of the rape victim’s child. While the number of DNA tests performed in India continues to be small, the number of investigations utilizing DNA as a tool has increased in lockstep with growing awareness of its importance.


A national of different DNAs is maintained by the government for the purpose of medical and matching the criminal DNAs during trials.[18,19] The European Network of Forensic Science Institute made 33 recommendations in 2014 for the DNA database management and guidelines.[20] The UK established its National DNA Database in 1995 by the name of national DNA database.[21] By continuously adding DNA from different crime scenes and other individual information, it possesses 6.6 million profiles till 2020.[22] In England, there is a law that any recordable offense must submit the DNA and which is then stored in DNA database.[23] New Zealand set up their DNA database for regulation of crimes in 2019 and has 2 lac samples till now.[24] The National DNA Database of the United States is called Combined DNA Index System.[25] The government of the US maintains approximately 50 million databases in CODIS at three different levels.[26] One month after the coordinated attacks on September 11, 2001, legislation significantly strengthened the intelligence services of the United States and eliminated key legal constraints on surveillance.[27,28] On October 11, 2001, Congress approved the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act,” easing limitations on how and how much personal information about citizens and non-citizens the government might seek.[29]

The Australian DNA database has almost 8.37 million DNA profiles, which they are using as forensic data.[30] Similarly, the Canadian DNA database which was established in 2000 and using it for criminal cases based on the DNA Identification Act.[31] Dubai, Germany, Israel, and Kuwait are among some other countries who have made a good DNA database to be used in forensics. Despite many challenges and committees raising issues on the criteria of doubts and retention, they are growing their DNA database.[32]


Densely populated and diversified countries like India, there is a huge requirement of DNA database.[33–35] The initiative began in 2003 with establishing an advice-giving board to make recommendations for planning human DNA profiling bill that was prepared in 2007.[36] The bill was prepared in conjunction with center for DNA fingerprinting and diagnostics who work in India for the investigation of DNA samples for criminal cases. When this bill was proposed in the Indian parliament, it falls into controversies by the activists who states that sensitive data of Indian citizens should not to be held with government as this can be misused.[37,38] They even gave an example of the UK, a country whose government deleted almost 1 million databases from DNA bank after passing a protection of freedom act. Although CBI is continuously raising the issues in conviction due to the same.[39]

In past crimes in which DNA analysis was generated has created millions of DNA databases, which are stored and are continuously searched in National DNA Databases. Many countries have moved onto fast convictions cases only due to these DNA databases.[40] Making people aware of DNA database’s pros and cons and participation voluntarily in DNA databases can resolve the issues related to privacy and human rights.[41]

The advances in technology have improved the accuracy of genetic testing and its analysis. It has further on reduced the costs which in turn can increase the genetic information that can be created from DNA not only tells about the person but can be an identifier of person’s close and distinct relatives.[42] Numerous studies have shown that people are more comfortable in sharing the DNA information with the medical and biotechnological researchers then with government agencies which is failing when it comes to diversity.[40] In India, we do not have any law controlling the rights of an individual to hold and to share the DNA data which is a good reason for people not to participate in DNA bank’s database.[37,43,44] Popejoy and Fullerton indicate that when we apply genomics on diversity if fails in doing so.[45] They found out that in over 20 years of genetic researches in the UK the non-European ancestry people contribute to even less than 20% of the samples collected for precision medicines.[45]

In India, having ancestry from different parts of the world, it is very challenging to create the DNA bank collecting samples from all the cultural backgrounds, which in turn increases the demand of awareness of people for DNA database requirement and voluntarily participation.[46]


Many studies in neuroscience seem to contribute to sentencing mitigation instead of aggravation. Neuroscientific and genetic evidence cannot be admitted as evidence in criminal courts. Rather, the system has a great impact on the reaction.[47–49] Death sentence is more severe in the United States than elsewhere; in fact, most countries in Europe have done away with it for years. The problem with this rejection of behavioral genetic data is that it is associated with an already established theory of criminal culpability. This also arose during the media’s coverage of the Mobley case.[50] Some writers and commentators used a capital case to describe defense strategies depending on an individual’s culpability. In addition, the criminal justice system form also impacts the effect of biological evidence on punishment.[50,51] Experts and laypeople have different jobs, and neuroscientific discoveries can have a distinct impact on them. Special judges determine sentences (whether detention should take place in prison or a forensic hospital and the length of the sentence). In criminal justice trials that could lead to the capital penalty, a “death-qualified jury” is formed.[52,53] Research has shown that when biological evidence is considered in the sentence of experienced judges, it significantly impacts their decision-making. The criminal justice system lacks a strong methodological framework for working with genetic behavioral science.[54]

Although the ramifications of genetic research vary slightly, these genetic discoveries will propel the criminal justice system into unknown territory. Because genetics, they argue, “causes” so much of human behavior, states may be pushed to develop a new system based on biological types of behavior rather than individual psychological decision-making.[55] Legislators and courts, which have long defined criminal acts and devised punishment systems based on the concept of culpability, will be forced to justify these correctional measures, even while their relationship to individual responsibility is shattered.”[52,56] Historically, when confronted with external forces that could impair an individual’s ability to act freely, society has defined the problem away through the creation of legal exceptions such as duress and insanity.[57] However, these genetic facts may now compel the criminal justice system to rely virtually solely on these extenuating circumstances.[58] This could result in an utterly untenable society in which everyone gets exempted from all crimes based on their own unique predispositions.[59] Therefore, to conclude the judicious use of genetics in criminal law is the need of the day.

The Indian population is well documented in the literature to consist of numerous endogamous groups. Consanguineous marriage is common in these groups, resulting in the accumulation of rare harmful mutations.[10,60] Within specific endogamous populations, these rare/unique differences multiply as founder mutations, eventually leading to population-specific genetic disorders. The Indian government is now concentrating on effectively cataloguing genomic variants specific to the Indian population to create a blueprint for disease epidemiology, population-specific variants, and pharmacogenomic markers, which will eventually lead to the development of effective therapies.[60] In this respect, the IndiGen effort intends to compile a database of genetic variants representative of today’s Indian population, with the goal of classifying variants linked to Mendelian illnesses and improving precision medicine outcomes. Through data mining of clinically relevant pharmacogenetic variations, the resource can also aid in the development of indicators for carrier screening, the prevention of adverse events, and the provision of better diagnosis and effective therapy. Researchers will be able to generate an Indian-specific reference genome dataset and effectively impute haplotype information using the phased data.[10,60]

Every area has access to the genomic dataset given by this project database of over 18 million distinct variants, from gene research to precision medicine. This can help physicians and researchers had better understand genetics not only at the population level, but also at the individual level. However, there is no link between the IndiGen research and the genes that are more typically found in those who engage in criminal behavior. In India, the criminal database is still being developed, and while the government was investing time and money in researchers, maintaining a database with criminal data and applying it to the court system could have been a smart alternative from the perspective of genetics in the criminal system.[34,61]


The term “crime governance” is intended to draw attention to the underlying beliefs, discourses, and strategies that define this social realm. The administration of crime encompasses a broader range of issues than simply the response of society to the crime.[62] In addition, it involves novel methods for monitoring and controlling behavior, as well as redesigned means of administering justice, all of which contribute to the construction of new ideas of justice and social governance. By systematically collecting, storing, exchanging, and utilizing genetic data on a massive scale, new social sorting systems are pushed and implemented.[63] The technology system like IndiGen project does not just act on individuals; they develop increasingly intricate methods of monitoring and controlling specific individuals and social groups, both to understand the impact and reach. Finally, this notion enables us to go further than the way state structures rule contemporary societies and consider the role of other social organizations in the regulation of crime in contemporary cultures. As is the case with the networks that generate scientific knowledge, which serve as a tangible manifestation of the metaphorical power invested in research and technology. This way the project can be included in the criminal justice system.[64,65]

Being a result, forensic genetic libraries and associated DNA technologies are continually being expanded and enhanced, with an emphasis on increased interoperability as one part of this growth. With the goal of increasing police collaboration within the European Union, the number of worldwide population monitoring and surveillance tools has expanded.[66]

Knowing our rights in criminal law entails developing an awareness of several penal codes, notably the Indian Penal Code 1860, the Criminal Procedure Code 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act 1872. All three areas are inextricably linked, and together they illuminate the criminal law’s rights. Another critical aspect of criminal law is an understanding of the constitutional principles set forth in Part III of the Indian Constitution. In other words, the constitutional principles outlined in Part III are the soul of criminal law. Criminal law, including substantive and procedural, must be evaluated against the backdrop of India’s Constitutional Articles 14 and 21.

As written, criminal law effectively stifles the constitutional guarantees of life, liberty, and equality. For instance, when a person is arrested or held pursuant to preventative laws, the State’s action infringes on his constitutionally protected right to life and liberty. Detention under modern preventive measures obliterates the right to a dignified existence while confined. Article 14 of the constitution guarantees the right to a fair trial conducted in accordance with established legal procedures. The State’s arbitrary acts in detaining individuals under preventative legislation, torturing detainees in detention, and demanding impossibly strict requirements for executing bail are only a few examples of violations of constitutional rights. The criminal law which publicly labels an individual as a “criminal” must maintain a balance between the interest of the state, especially the case of the victim, and the interest of the individual. In other words, any harmful conduct which is condemned under criminal law must be evaluated in terms of its impact on valued interests, which may be individual, victim, or societal. While we can certainly wish for a law-abiding community that willingly abstains from crime, in today’s society, we cannot overlook the critical role of this department of law in ensuring the security of life and property and maintaining law and order in the state.

In a datafied world, administrators of forensic genetic archives recycle ideas such as culture, religion, and public identity as useful classifications. These effective classifications are deployed as organizing principles and so perpetuated by a kind of logic that cures them as obtained records.[67] Several authors, however, have cautioned that the latest security technologies have, in fact, bolstered the validity of old preconceptions and even generated new behaviors to stigmatize and exclude, from the moment surveillance technologies operate on principles that distinguish suspect from non-suspicious persons.[67] Following operational principles, a set of procedures is applied to criminal investigations that would raise ethical questions if civil rights were curtailed. This objective can be done by analyzing the distribution of genetic profile data by zone and then comparing the reference sample’s proximity to a possible location of origin. DNA phenotyping can be included in the criminal justice system through the development of a DNA database and databank for the law.[66]

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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