Explained | Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill: What are Govt’s Objectives, What Concerns Does this Raise?
The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 seeks to expand the scope and ambit of the measurements that can be taken under the law as it will help in unique identification of a person involved in crime and help to investigate agencies in solving criminal cases.
New Delhi: Amid strong protests from the Opposition, the government at the Centre on Monday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to provide legal sanction to the police to take physical and biological samples of convicts as well as persons accused of crimes. The Opposition created an uproar dubbing the measure illegal and unconstitutional. Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra Teni introduced the bill, dismissing the apprehensions voiced by the members and asserted that the move was required to make provisions for the use of modern techniques to capture and record appropriate body measurements. He pointed out that the existing law — the Identification of Prisoners Act — dated back to 1920 and allowed taking only fingerprint and footprint impressions of a limited category of convicted persons.
What is the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill?
The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 seeks to expand the scope and ambit of the measurements that can be taken under the law as it will help in the unique identification of a person involved in crime and help to investigate agencies in solving criminal cases. The bill defines measurements to include finger impressions, palm print and foot-print impressions, photographs, iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples and their analysis. The bill will not only help investigation agencies but also increase prosecution, said Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni.
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“The current Identification of Prisoners Act was formed in 1920. It has been 102 years now. The Act provided for the collection of only fingerprints and footprints. The world has undergone technological and scientific changes, crime and its trend have increased,” Teni said in the Lok Sabha.
The Bill aims at authorising the police to take measurements of convicts and other persons for the purposes of their identifications and investigations in criminal matters to preserve records. It allows police to collect “finger-impressions, palm-print impressions, footprint impressions, photographs, iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples and their analysis, behavioural attributes, including signatures, handwriting or any other examination” referred to in section 53 or section 53A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
As per the provisions of the Bill, any person convicted, arrested or detained under any preventive detention law will be required to provide “measurements” to a police officer or a prison official. The bill will repeal the existing ‘The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920’. In this Act, it is limited to allow for the taking of finger and footprint impressions and for a limited category of convicted and non-convicted persons and photographs on the order of a Magistrate.
Who does the law apply to?
The law would apply to three categories of individuals:
- Those convicted of an offence are punishable under any law for the time being in force.
- Those ordered to give security for good behaviour or maintaining peace under Section 117 of the CrPC for a proceeding under Section 107, 108, 109 or 110 of the Code. These are provisions involving “suspected criminals” or “habitual offenders” with a view to preventing crime.
- Those arrested in connection with an offence punishable under any law in force or detained under any preventive detention law. This would include the National Security Act or the Public Safety Act.
Who Can Refuse to Comply?
Except for those accused of offences committed against a woman or a child, or for any offence punishable with imprisonment for a period that is not less than seven years, a person accused of any other offence can refuse to allow the taking of his biological samples under the Bill. It further says that even if such data is collected from the accused, it can be destroyed from the records unless a magistrate in writing directs otherwise after the accused is released without trial or discharged or acquitted by a court.
How Will the Data be Stored?
As per the Bill, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be entrusted with the biological data collected, “in the interest of prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of any offence under any law for the time being in force”.
Issues being raised about the Bill
Opposition members contended that the Bill was beyond the legislative competence of Parliament as it violated fundamental rights of citizens. Reports suggest that the Bill also lacks clarity as several provisions are not clearly defined. In the Bill, the statement of objects says it provides for collection of measurements for “convicts and other persons” but the expression “other persons” is not defined. The Bill also brings to focus rights of prisoners and the right to be forgotten since biometric data can be stored for only 75 years.
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