Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022


    In News 

    • Recently, the Government introduced the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022  in Lok Sabha .

    Major Highlights of the Bill 

    • The Bill seeks to widen the scope of the existing law — The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 — under which “measurements” of only “finger impressions” and “footprint impressions” are allowed. 
    • It authorises the police to take “measurements” to tag those who have been convicted, arrested or detained .
      • Section 2(1)(b) of the Bill defines “measurements” to include finger impressions, palm-print impressions, footprint impressions, photographs, iris and retina scans, physical and biological samples and their analysis, behavioural attributes including signatures and handwriting, or any other examination referred to in Section 53 or Section 53A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973.
      •  Section 53 relates to the medical examination of a person arrested.
    • 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.
      • 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.
    • Scope: 

      • Compared to the 1920 Act, the Bill expands the individuals it seeks to cover. It proposes that the law apply to three categories of individuals:

        • Those convicted of an offence punishable under any law for the time being in force.

        • Those ordered to give security for good behaviour or maintaining peace under Section 117 of the CrPC for a proceeding under Section 107, 108, 109 or 110 of the Code. 

          • These are provisions involving “suspected criminals” or “habitual offenders” with a view to preventing crime.

        • Those arrested in connection with an offence punishable under any law in force or detained under any preventive detention law. This would include the National Security Act or the Public Safety Act.

    • Storage of data: 

      • The Bill authorised officers in charge of police stations or those not below Head Constable rank to take the “measurements” — records of these measurements shall be retained for 75 years from the date of collection. 
        • The present law covers officers in charge of stations, those conducting an investigation, or others not below the rank of Sub-Inspector.
      • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be the repository of physical and biological samples, signature and handwriting data .

    Image Courtesy :TH

    Objectives and Need of Bill 

    • The Bill was required to make provisions for the use of modern techniques to capture and record appropriate body measurements.
    • The present law ( Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920)is 102 years old and only provides for taking fingerprints and footprints
    • Many changes have taken place in the world in all these years. Technology has upgraded, scientific processes have increased and the trend of crimes committed by criminals have also increased. Therefore, there is a need to expand the scope of the present law.
    • It is part of the Government’s efforts to upgrade crime-solving technology in line with global standards.
    • The integration of the fingerprints database, face recognition software and iris scans will significantly boost investigation capabilities and also help in civilian verification.
    • The proposed Bill helps in maintaining law and order, which is a legitimate state interest. 

    Concerns /Issues 

    • Lack of Clarity: 

      • Several provisions are not defined in the Bill itself. For a law that impacts fundamental rights, this can raise concerns. 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.

      •  It does include those accused of certain offences, but it can be argued that the police could use the law to expand it to others.

    • Conflict with Fundamental Rights : 

      • Opposition members argued that the Bill was beyond the legislative competence of Parliament as it violated fundamental rights of citizens including the right to privacy — the Constitution states that Parliament can bring no law that violates the fundamental rights of citizens.

      • The proposed law will be debated against Article 20(3) of the Constitution, which is a fundamental right that guarantees the right against self-incrimination. 

      • it states that “no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”.

      • The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Puttaswamy v Union of India, which recognised the right to privacy as a fundamental right, made it clear that any state action infringing on the right needs to be backed by legislation.

    • Other Concerns : 

      • The Bill also brings to focus rights of prisoners and the right to be forgotten since biometric data can be stored for 75 years. While the jurisprudence around the right to be forgotten is still in an early stage in India, the Puttaswamy judgement discusses it as a facet of the fundamental right to privacy.

      • In the Puttaswamy II case in 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the Aadhaar scheme and allowed the state to collect fingerprints and iris scans for welfare schemes.

      • Bill violates human rights provisions as laid out in the United Nations charter.

    Way Forward

    • Government must “very seriously” consider whether it is in the “legislative competence of the Treasury” to sponsor legislation that affects fundamental rights and whether the House should take up “such illegal legislation”