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Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act 2022

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    19th Aug, 2022

Context

The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act 2022 has come into force after being passed by Parliament in April 2022.

About

Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022:

  • The Actis going to replace a colonial-era law, the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920.
  • It provides Legal sanction to the police to take physical and biological samples of convicts as well as those accused of crimes.
  • Data that can be collected: Finger-impressions, Palm-Print impressions, Footprint impressions, Photographs, Iris and Retina scans, Physical, Biological samples and their analysis, Behavioural Attributes including signatures, Handwriting or any other examination.
  • The police as per section 53 or section 53A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, can collect Data.
  • Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 is the primary legislation regarding the procedural aspects of criminal law.
  • 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 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be the central agency to maintain the records.
    • It will share the data with law enforcement agencies.
    • States/UTs may notify agencies to collect, preserve, and share data in their respective jurisdictions.
    • The data collected will be retained in digital or electronic form for 75 years.
    • Records will be destroyed in case of persons who are acquitted after all appeals or released without trial.
    • However, in such cases, a Court or Magistrate may direct the retention of details after recording reasons in writing.
  • It aims to ensure the unique identification of those involved with crime and to help to investigate agencies solve cases.
  • Under both the 1920 Act and the 2022 Bill, resistance or refusal to give data will be considered an offence of obstructing a public servant from doing his duty.

Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920:

  • The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 allows police officers to collect certain identifiable information (fingerprints and footprints) of persons including convicts and arrested persons.
  • Also, a Magistrate may order measurements or photographs of a person to be taken to aid the investigation of an offence.
  • In case of acquittal or discharge of the person, all material must be destroyed.

Need for Replacement of the Previous Act:

87th Report of the Law Commission of India

  • In 1980, the 87th Report of the Law Commission of India undertook a review of this legislation and recommended several amendments. The report was concerned with coercive measures employed in the investigation process. This was done in the backdrop of the State of UP vs Ram BabuMisra case, where the Supreme Court had highlighted the need for amending this law.
    • The first set of recommendations laid out the need to amend the Act to expand the scope of measurements to include “palm impressions”, “specimen of signature or writing” and “specimen of voice”.
    • The second set of recommendations raised the need to allow measurements to be taken for proceedings other than those under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
    • It was felt that with advancements in forensics, there is a need to recognize more kinds of “measurements” that can be used by law enforcement agencies for investigation.

“Rogues Galleries”- Practice followed in other countries:

  • Police in most of the cities of the U.S.A. and Europe attempt to keep the descriptions of every person arrested by them, in permanent records. These records are popularly known as 'rogues' galleries'.

DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019:

  • The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 (pending in Lok Sabha) provides a framework for using DNA technology for this purpose.

Significance of the Act:

  • Availability of Modern Techniques: The Act will open up the inclusion of modern techniques to capture and record appropriate body measurements. The existing law allowed taking only fingerprint and footprint impressions of a limited category of convicted persons.
  • Help Investing Agencies: It will help the investigating agencies to gather sufficient legally admissible evidence and establish the crime of the accused person.
  • Making Investigation More Efficient: It provides legal sanction for taking appropriate body measurements of persons who are required to give such measurements and will make the investigation of crime more efficient and expeditious and will also help in increasing the conviction rate.

Issues with Law:

  • Violation of Privacy: Seemingly technical, the legislative proposal undermines the right to privacy of not only persons convicted of a crime but also every ordinary Indian citizen.It has provisions to collect samples even from protestors engaged in political protests.
  • Unawareness among Detainees:
    • Although it provides that an arrested person (not accused of an offence against a woman or a child) may refuse the taking of samples, not all detainees may know that they can indeed decline to let biological samples be taken.
  • Ambiguous Provisions: Replacing the 1920 Identification of Prisoners Act, the proposed law considerably expands its scope and reach.
    • The phrase ‘biological samples’ has not been elaborated further. Hence, it could involve bodily invasions such as drawing of blood and hair, and collection of DNA samples. These are acts that currently require the written sanction of a magistrate.
  • Violation of Article 20:Enables coercive drawing of samples and possibly involves a violation of Article 20(3), which protects the right against self-incrimination.
  • Handling of Data:Provision of preserving the record for 75 years (effectivelyfor life), other concerns include the means by which the data collected will be preserved, shared, disseminated, and destroyed.
    • Collection can also result in mass surveillance, with the database under this law being combined with other databases such as those of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS).

Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS):

  • CCTNS is a Mission Mode Project under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) of Govt. of India.
  • CCTNS aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing through adopting of principle of e-Governance and the creation of a nationwide networking infrastructure for the evolution of an IT-enabled-state-of-the-art tracking system around Investigation of crime and detection of criminals.

Conclusion

In the absence of strong data protection law, there are considerable concerns over the privacy and safety of data collected by the authorities. The procedure involving the collection, storage and destruction of vital details of an individual must only be done only after placing stringent punishment for breaches. The long-term storage of data should be covered under stringent data protection laws. At the same time depriving law enforcement agencies of the use of the latest technologies would be a grave injustice to victims of crimes.

In the formulation of any law, a balance has to be struck between the rights of an individual and the imperative need in the interests of society for the protection and punishment of crime.

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