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The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 was passed by the Parliament, the Bill seeks to repeal The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 and expands the scope of information the government can collect from convicts, arrested persons and other persons such as habitual offenders. According to Union Home Minister, the sole objective of the legislation is to improve the conviction rate in the country, protect the human rights of crores of law-abiding citizens and send a strong message in the society. Opposition members, however, claim the legislation is violative of fundamental rights and infringes upon individual freedom and privacy.

Key Provisions:

  • The Bill expands:
    •  the type of data that may be collected
    • persons from whom such data may be collected
    • the authority that may authorise such collection.  It also provides for the data to be stored in a central database.
  • It authorises law enforcement agencies to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples of convicts and other persons for the purposes of identification and investigation in criminal matters.
  • The Bill also authorises police to record signatures, handwriting or other behavioural attributes referred to in section 53 or section 53A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973,for the purposes of analysis.
  • As per the Bill, any person convicted, arrested or held under any preventive detention law will be required to provide “measurements”to a police officer or a prison official.
  • Any state government of Union Territory administration may notify an appropriate agency tocollect, preserve and share the measurements of a person of interest in their respective jurisdictions.
  • Resistance to or refusal to allow the taking of measurements under this Act shall be deemed to be an offence under section 186 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Need for and significance of the Bill:

  • The bill makes provisions for the use of modern techniquesto capture and record appropriate body measurements.
  • The Bill states that it is necessary to expand the “ambit of persons” whose measurements can be taken as this will help investigating agencies gather sufficient legally admissible evidence and establish the crime of the accused person.
  • The Bill will not only help investigation agencies but also increase prosecution. There is also a chance of an increase in conviction rates in courts through this.
  • It is expected to minimise the threat from organised crime, cybercriminals and terrorists who are proficient in identity thefts and identity frauds.
  • The bill will help to check serious national and global threats posed by them.

Bill may violate the Right to Privacy as well as Equality 

  • The Bill permits the collection of certain identifiable information about individuals for the investigation of crime.
  • The information specified under the Bill forms part of the personal data of individuals and is thus protected under the right to privacy of individuals.
  • The right to privacy has been recognised as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court (2017).
  • The Court laid out principles that should govern any law that restricts this right.
  • These include a public purpose, a rational nexus of the law with such purpose, and that this is the least intrusive way to achieve the purpose.
  • That is, the infringement of privacy must be necessary for and proportionate to that purpose.  The Bill may fail this test on several parameters.
  • It may also fail Article 14 requirements of a law to be fair and reasonable, and for equality under the law

Shortcomings of the bill

  • The proposed law considerably expands its scope and reach.
  • It violates Article 20 (3) of the Constitution that safeguards the rights of citizens by providing that “no person accused of an offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”.
  • The Bill implied use of force in collection of biological information, could also lead to narco analysis and brain mapping.
  • The proposed law, that also provides for retaining the people’s measurements for 75 years from the date of collection, was in “violation of the Right to be Forgottenenshrined in the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution”.
  • The phrase ‘biological samples’ is not described further, hence, it could involve bodily invasions such as drawing of blood and hair, collection of DNA samples. These are acts that currently require the written sanction of a magistrate.
  • The Bill proposes to collect samples even from protestors engaged in political protests. It infringes upon the right to privacy.

Way forward

  • The need of the hour is a strong data protection law,with stringent punishment for breaches, should be in place.
  • The bill must be referred to a Standing Committee for deeper scrutinybefore it is enacted into law, as now pre-legislative consultation was done.
  • Measures need to be taken for better implementation of the lawas well.
  • There is a need to have more experts to collect measurementsfrom the scene of crime, more forensic labs, and equipment to analyse them to identify possible accused involved in a criminal case.
  • Thetraining of the investigation officers, prosecutors, judicial officers and collaboration with doctors and forensic experts need to be prioritised too.