New Delhi: The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill 2022, which seeks to allow the taking of biometric data – as well as “physical and biological samples” – from convicted and arrested or detained persons, for the purposes of identification and investigation, was introduced in the Lok Sabha Monday.
The bill, introduced by Minister of State for Interior Ajay Mishra Teni, was criticized by opposition parties, who called it “unconstitutional”.
The government, however, said the proposed legislation was only an “improved version” of the Prisoner Identification Act 1920, to ensure better investigation and conviction rates.
The bill empowers law enforcement to collect biometric data such as fingerprints, palm and footprint, iris and retina scans, signatures, handwriting and physical and biological samples from arrested or detained persons.
The scope of the old Prisoner Identification Act 1920 was limited to the collection of fingers and footprints from a limited class of convicted and remand prisoners after obtaining an order from a magistrate.
Under the new bill, a magistrate can order convicted, arrested or detained persons to provide their biometrics. Those who refuse can be charged under Section 186 of the Indian Penal Code for preventing a public official from carrying out his duties.
The proposed legislation claims that such biometric data collected from defendants and convicts by “advanced countries” has aided investigations and yielded “credible and reliable results”.
“The law does not provide for the taking of these bodily measurements because many techniques and technologies had not been developed at that time. It is therefore essential to provide modern techniques to capture and record appropriate body measurements in place of the existing limited measurements,” the bill reads.
The bill was allowed to be tabled in Lok Sabha after 120 MPs voted in favor and 58 against.
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The opposition cries foul
Calling the bill a “violation of fundamental rights granted by the Constitution of India”, Congress Leader Manish Tewari said: “The bill is beyond the legislative competence of the House and goes against the rights fundamentals of our citizens. No person charged with an offense may be compelled to testify against himself. Moreover, the implicit use of force to take action violates prisoners’ rights.
Trinamool Congress Leader Saugata Roy said the legislation goes against basic principles of law. “It simply does not violate human rights, but goes against the fundamental principles of the Constitution. No one is guilty unless proven by a court,” he said.
Speaking in the House, Teni said changes to the Identification of Prisoners Act 1920 were needed because she was 102 years old and crime trends had changed.
“The previous law only provided for the collection of fingerprints and footprints. The world has undergone technological and scientific changes; crime trends have changed. This is why the amendment is necessary. This will not only help our investigative agencies, but will also increase prosecutions,” he said.
Speaking to ThePrint, a government official said: ‘This is not a new bill. Only a few additions have been made to redefine what metrics are, to make them more robust with today’s technology and times. This will only ensure a better investigation by the police, based on scientific and technical parameters.
The current law provides access to a limited category of people whose body measurements — fingers and footprints — can be taken. The new bill, however, talks about expanding the “scope of people” whose measurements can be taken.
“Expanding the scope of who actions can be taken will help investigative agencies gather enough legally admissible evidence and establish the accused’s crime,” the bill says.
“Therefore, there is a need to widen the scope and scope of ‘measures’, which can be taken under the provisions of the law as they will assist in the unique identification of a person involved in a crime and assist the investigative agencies to solve the criminal case.
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NCRB to keep records
The new bill seeks to empower the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to collect, store and retain action records, for sharing, dissemination, destruction and disposal of the records.
According to the bill, the NCRB will collect biometric data from state governments, union territory administration and law enforcement agencies and retain the record for 75 years. He will also have the power to destroy these recordings. The NCRB will process these records and share the details with all law enforcement agencies.
The bill also states that if a person complies with the requirements and is discharged, discharged or acquitted by the court, all records will be destroyed. This, however, can only be done if a court or magistrate agrees.
(Edited by: Manoj Ramachandran)
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