The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act

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    In Context

    • Recently, the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act which was passed by the Parliament, came into force.

    More about the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act

    • About:
      • The Act replaces the similar colonial-era Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920.
      • The new law allows investigators to collect certain identifiable information of convicts and other persons for purposes of identification and investigation in criminal matters.
    • Key provisions:
      • Legal sanction of data collection:
        • The new law provides a legal sanction to the police to take physical and biological samples of convicts as well as those accused of crimes
        • It empowers police to collect : 

     

     

    • Persons in preventive detention:
      • The Act also seeks to apply to persons detained under any preventive detention law. 
    • Role of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB):
      • The law also empowers the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to store, preserve, share with any law enforcement agency and destroy the record of measurements at the national level. 
      • The records can be stored up to a period of 75 years

    The old vs new law:

    • The old law allowed police authorities to take only fingerprint and footprint impressions of a limited category of convicted persons, 
      • Whereas the new law allows police to collect a range of physical and biological samples, not only of convicts but also of those arrested or even detained under any preventive detention law. 
    • While the old law was limited to serious offenders, the new one includes all categories of criminals and accused.

     

    • Punishment:
      • It also does away with the condition of an offence being punishable by at least one year or more of imprisonment for the “measurements” to be taken.
      • Exemptions:
        • It only grants an exemption in the form of mandatory consent for “biological samples”, except in cases where the accused is arrested for sexual abuse of women and children or for an offence carrying a minimum punishment of seven years.
    • Powers of Magistrate: 
      • Under the act, a Magistrate may direct a person to give details for the purpose of an investigation or proceeding under the CrPC
      • Depending on certain factors (such as the area concerned), the Magistrate may be a Metropolitan Magistrate, a Judicial Magistrate of the first class, or an Executive Magistrate
    • Records of juveniles:
      • The Act does not explicitly bar taking measurements of juveniles.
      • The provisions of the (Special Act) Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 regarding the destruction of records of conviction under the Act, shall apply. 

    Significance of the Bill

    • The act utilises modern state of Art Technology to collect information. 
      • For example, retina scan, biometrics etc along with previously present fingertips scanning.
      • The use of better technology will only help in minimising the probability of errors
    • It proposes to ensure that no person involved in a political agitation has to give (physical and biometric) measurements only for political agitation. 
      • But, if a political leader is arrested in a criminal case, then he will have to be at par with a citizen.
    • It suits the changing nature of the crime.
    • It proposes to strengthen the capacity of the police and forensic department.

    Criticisms

    • Narco analysis and brain mapping:
      • The Opposition expressed apprehension that the words “biological samples and their analysis” mentioned in the Act could allow authorities to perform narco analysis and brain mapping
    • Opaqueness: 
      • The purpose for which the measurements are to be collected, stored, preserved or shared is absent, making the act ambiguous and opaque.
      • Period for which such measurements shall be retained, and grounds for their removal and destruction, are all procedural safeguards that the parent statute must itself lay down but are not there.
    • Use of force:
      • It alleged that the Act will empower authorities to forcefully take measurements of accused and detainees, which it said violates the rights of prisoners violates a catena of Supreme Court judgments. 
    • Over delegation of powers & surveillance state: 
      • Excessive delegation of power is given to various functionaries and authorities under the act , including prison officers and the police. 
      • Some critics touted the act as a step in the direction of becoming a surveillance state.
    • In conflict with the constitution:
      • A regulatory and scientific examination of the act clearly indicates grave constitutional violations as it falls short of the fundamental right to equality (provided by Article 14), the right against self-incrimination (provided by Article 20(3)), and the right to privacy (provided by Article 21) of the Constitution of India.
        • If an infringement of the right to privacy satisfies the test of the doctrine of proportionality as laid down in Puttaswamy II, it can be said to be constitutional. 
        • The doctrine of proportionality constitutes a (i) legitimate aim, (ii) suitable means, (iii) necessity of means, and (iv) proportionality stricto sensu.

    Way ahead

    • Safeguard against misuse:
      • The government has assured that the rules would have safeguards against any misuse of the identification database and biological samples, by fixing accountability of those entrusted with the safety of data. 
    • Strengthening criminal procedure:
      • The government views this law as a means to strengthen criminal procedure by consolidating evidence and data at the central level to increase conviction rates
    • Recommendations:
      • To facilitate identification and investigation in criminal matters, Enforcement agencies must be allowed to use scientific methods to prevent and detect crime
        • Necessary training should be imparted to the investigating officers.

    It should be ensured that Right to Privacy should be maintained along with keeping national security as the prime agenda.