How does the new Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 propose to collect sensitive data?
- The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 was recently introduced in Lok Sabha
- If passed, it will allow police and prison authorities to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples
- At the introduction stage, Opposition members opposed the Bill terming it “unconstitutional” and an attack on privacy
About the legislation
- It seeks to repeal The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920
- Its scope was limited to capturing of finger impression, foot-print impressions and photographs of convicted prisoners and certain category of arrested and non-convicted persons on the order of a Magistrate
- The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the 2022 Bill said that new ‘‘measurement’’ techniques being used in advanced countries are giving credible and reliable results and are recognised the world over.
- The 1920 Act does not provide for taking these body measurements as many of the techniques and technologies had not been developed then.
- Objective of new bill : to provide legal sanction for taking such details and will make the investigation of crime more efficient and expeditious, and help in increasing the conviction rate.
Major changes proposed under the bill
- It proposes four major changes.
- First: it would define ‘‘measurements’’ to include “signature, handwriting, iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples and their analysis, etc.”
- It does not specify what analysis means, implying that it may also include storing DNA samples.
- The “etc.” mentioned in the text of the Bill could give unfettered powers to law enforcement agencies to interpret the law as per their convenience, sometimes to the disadvantage of the accused.
- Second: it empowers the National Crime Records Bureau of India (NCRB), under the Union Home Ministry, to collect, store and preserve the record of measurements for at least 75 years.
- The NCRB will be able to share the data with other law enforcement agencies as well.
- Police is a State subject and NCRB works under the Union government, and experts contend this provision may impinge on federalism.
- Third, it empowers a Magistrate to direct any person to give vital details, which till now was reserved for convicts and those involved in heinous crimes.
- Fourth: it empowers police or prison officers up to the rank of a Head Constable to take details of any person who resists or refuses to do so.
Other changes proposed under the Bill
- It also seeks to apply to persons detained under any preventive detention law.
- It also authorises taking vital details of “other persons” for identification and investigation in criminal matters.
- It doesn't define the “other persons”, implying its ambit extends beyond convicts, arrested persons, or detainees.
Allegations of Opposition regarding the bill
- Article 20(3) of the Constitution states that “no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself” so it is unconstitutional
- It proposes to collect samples even from those engaged in political protests.
Precedents of the Bill
- Karnataka Assembly passed The Identification of Prisoners (Karnataka Amendment) Bill in 2021, to amend the 1920 Act for application in the State
- The Bill is yet to be cleared by the MHA
- Tamil Nadu introduced and notified The Identification of Prisoners (Tamil Nadu Amendments) Act in 2010.
- It allows the police to draw “blood samples” other than the specified measurements from the limited categories of suspects and convicts defined in the 1920 Act
- It has been in practice for more than a decade after it received the assent of the Governor.
- There is a need for expanding the scope and ambit of the ‘‘measurements’’ which can be taken under the provisions of law as it will help in unique identification of a person involved in any crime and will assist the investigating agencies in solving the criminal case but the bill should also balance it with Right to Privacy and Human Rights of an Individual.
- Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022
- Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920
- Article 21
Q. While the recently proposed Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill will help in unique identification of a person involved in any crime and will assist the investigating agencies in solving the criminal case but it is being alleged that it is against Right to Privacy. Critically Examine.