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Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022

Context

The bill that would allow the police and prison authorities to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples, including retina and iris scans, was introduced in the Lok Sabha.

Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill

  • 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.
  • It seeks to repeal the Identification of Prisoners Act 1920 
  •  Provides access to a limitedcategory of persons whose body measurements can be taken.
  • Any state government OR Union Territory administration may notify an appropriate agency to collect, preserve and share the measurements of a person of interest in their respective jurisdictions.

Key features of the Bill

  • Define “measurements”: To include finger impressions, palm-print and foot-print impressions, photographs, iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples and their analysis, etc.;
  • Empower the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB): To collect, store and preserve the record of measurements and for sharing, dissemination, destruction and disposal of records;
  • Empower a Magistrate: To direct any person to give measurements; a Magistrate can also direct law enforcement officials to collect fingerprints, footprint impressions and photographs in the case of a specified category of convicted and non-convicted persons;
  • Empower police or prison officers: To take measurements of any person who resists or refuses to give measurements
  • 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.

Notable feature: Maintenance of Record

  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be the repository of physical and biological samples, signature and handwriting data that can be preserved for at least 75 years.
  • The record of these measurements will be retained in digital or electronic form for a period of seventy-five years from the date of collection.
  • The court or Magistrate, for reasons to be recorded in writing, can direct agencies to maintain the records.
  • The records are to be destroyed in the case of any person who has not been previously convicted of an offence punishable under any law with imprisonment for any term.

Issues with the Bill

  • Un-constitutionality:  will be debated against Article 20(3) of the Constitution, which is a fundamental right that guarantees the right against self-incrimination.
  • Violation of Article 21:  seeks to apply these provisions to persons held under any preventive detention law.
  • Legislative competence of Centre:  beyond the legislative competence of Parliament as it violated fundamental rights of citizens, including the right to privacy.
  • Contentious provisions:  proposes to collect samples even from protesters engaged in political protests.
  • Lack of clarity: Several provisions are not defined in the Bill itself. For instance, the statement of objects says it provides for collection of measurements for “convicts and other persons” but the expression “other persons” is not defined.
  • Other: While the jurisprudence around the right to be forgotten is still in an early stage in India, the Puttaswamy judgment discusses it as a facet of the fundamental right to privacy.

Source – The Hindu

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October 2022
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