The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022, which would allow police and prison authorities to collect, store, and analyse physical and biological samples, including the retina and iris scans, was introduced in Lok Sabha on Monday amid strong opposition from opposition members, who forced a vote and labelled the bill “unconstitutional.”
According to the bill, these protections would also apply to anybody detained under any preventative detention statute. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will store physical and biological samples, as well as signature and handwriting data, for at least 75 years.
The bill also allows for the measuring of prisoners and “other individuals” for the sake of identification and criminal inquiry. It doesn’t define “other individuals,” meaning that it covers more than just prisoners, arrested people, and detainees.
The measures may only be taken by police officers up to the level of Head Constable. It also allows the NCRB to exchange records with other law enforcement agencies.
Opposition MPs stated that the Bill went beyond Parliament’s legislative authority since it infringed on individuals’ basic rights, especially their right to privacy. Ritesh Pandey of the BSP pointed out that the Bill wants to gather samples from political activists as well.
The Bill could only be tabled by Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni following a vote in which 120 members voted in favour of it being introduced, while 58 members voted against it. When the Opposition sought a vote division, the government was caught off guard because not only were top ministers, including Home Minister Amit Shah, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, missing from the House, but even the Treasury Benches were empty.
Mr. Mishra’s bill was halted by Congress lawmaker Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, whose son is accused of driving over farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri (Uttar Pradesh) last year. The Minister answered by stating that if he were to face even a single criminal charge, he would resign from politics.
Manish Tewari, a member of Congress, contended that the bill, which indicated the use of force in gathering biological data, may lead to narcoanalysis and brain mapping, and that it violated Article 20 (3) of the Constitution as well as the Supreme Court’s decision in the K.S. Puttaswamy case.
N.K. Premachandran of the RSP, Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress, Mr. Chowdhury, and Mr. Pandey of the Trinamool Congress all spoke out against Bill’s presentation. Mr. Premachandran stated that the Bill breaches the United Nations Charter’s human rights provisions.
The Minister dismissed the fears, saying that the Bill needed to include provisions for the use of contemporary tools to collect and record suitable body dimensions. He pointed out that the current statute, the Identification of Prisoners Act, was enacted in 1920 and permits only a limited number of condemned people’s fingerprints and footprints to be taken.
The Identification of Prisoners Act of 1920, whose scope was confined to capturing fingers and footprints of a limited group of convicted and non-convicted prisoners, as well as pictures were taken at the direction of a magistrate, is being repealed.
According to Bill’s Statement of Objects and Reasons, modern “measurement” procedures utilised in advanced nations provide trustworthy and reliable findings that are recognised across the globe. “Because many of the tools and technologies had not been established at the time, the Act (Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920) does not provide for acquiring certain body measurements. As a result, it is critical to plan for contemporary ways to collect and record suitable body dimensions in lieu of the current restricted data, the report said.
The bill aims to increase the “ambit of individuals” who may be measured, which will aid investigative authorities in gathering adequate, legally-acceptable evidence and establishing the accused person’s wrongdoing.
“Therefore, there is a need to broaden the breadth and ambit of the “measurements” that may be obtained under the legislation,” it adds. “This will aid in the unique identification of a person engaged in any crime and will assist the investigating authorities in solving the criminal case.”
The law establishes legal authority for obtaining proper body measurements of those who are compelled to submit such measurements, which would improve the efficiency and speed of criminal investigations while also enhancing the conviction rate.
The bill aims to define “measurements” as a finger, palm, and foot impressions, photographs, iris and retina scans, physical and biological samples, and their analysis, and empowers the NCRB to collect, store, and preserve measurement records, as well as share, disseminate, destroy, and dispose of records. It allows a magistrate to order anybody to take measures, as well as the police or a jail officer to take measurements of anyone who opposes or refuses to do so.
The bill says that “resistance or refusal to allow the taking of measurements under this Act will be a crime under Section 186 of the Indian Penal Code.”
“Provided that where any person who has had his measurements taken according to the provisions of this Act is released without trial or discharged or acquitted by the court after exhausting all legal remedies, all records of measurements so taken shall be destroyed from the record, unless the court or magistrate, for reasons to be recorded in writing, otherwise directs.”
Source: The Hindu