Analysis Of Sansad TV Discussion:
”The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022”
GS 2: Judgements & Cases, Fundamental Rights, Government Policies & Interventions
- Recently, ”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 Amit Shah, 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.
What is ”The 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
Key Provisions of the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022
The type of data that may be collected
- Biological samples, and their analysis.
- Behavioural attributes including signatures.
- Handwriting, and Examinations under sections 53 and 53A of CrPC (includes blood, semen, hair samples, and swabs, and analyses such as DNA profiling).
Persons from whom such data may be collected
- Convicted or arrested for any offence. However, biological samples may be taken forcibly only from persons arrested for offences against a woman or a child, or if the offence carries a minimum of seven years imprisonment.
- Persons detained under any preventive detention law.
- On the order of Magistrate, from any person (not just an arrested person) to aid investigation.
The authority that may authorise such collection
- Officer in charge of a police station, or of rank Head Constable or above. In addition, a Head Warder of a prison.
- Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate of first class. In case of persons required to maintain good behaviour or peace, the Executive Magistrate.
- The Bill also provides for the data to be stored in a central database. 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.
- The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be the central agency to maintain the records. It will share the data with law enforcement agencies. Further, 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.
Arguments in favour of the Bill
- The Bill would help improve conviction rates as well as “curb crime and criminals”. Criminals keep changing their modus operandi, and that investigative agencies need to be “empowered” to check crime.
- In Ritesh Sinha vs State of Uttar Pradesh, Honorable Supreme Court had said that compelling someone to give a sample does not violate Article 20(3). (The Article guards an accused against any act that can be self-incriminating.)
- Our police is a product of its social milieu, and as such is far from being perfect. However, that does not mean we do not empower it with requisite powers and instruments. There is an undeniable need to strike a balance between protecting an individual’s privacy and giving police the tools they need to keep us safe.
- This bill is in line with global standards and for our investigation agencies to be on a par with other advanced countries. It can also protect innocent people, it can save government money & government resources. It will also save time spent on investigations.
Arguments against the Bill
- The Bill brought by the government violates the three Articles of the Constitution — 14,19 & 21 — which enshrine basic rights.
- This went against the Supreme Court’s landmark judgement in the Kesavananda Bharati vs Union of India outlining that no government could change the “basic structure” of the Constitution.
- The Bill “offers a carte blanche to police officials to collect samples according to their whims and fancies”. There is “a danger of serious infringement upon the territory of freedom, individual rights, and civil liberties.”
- On the basis of Constitutional propriety, on the basis of propriety of Indian principles, on the basis of propriety of governance, this Bill should be sent to the Standing Committee.
- The Bill should not become a tool for political “witch-hunt”. DNA profiling also should be used purely for serious crimes and for counter-terrorism purposes only. For a civilised and advanced society to be developed and maintained, a civilised and sophisticated police force is quite essential. Therefore, emphasis should be made in this Bill on capacity building, including experts in forensics at the police station level itself.