Identity and privacy: On Prisoners’ identification Bill/ Why the Criminal Identification Bill overreaches

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News: The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022, has been tabled in Parliament.

The bill proposes to enable the collection of biometric and biological data from prisoners, besides the usual physical measurements, photographs and finger-prints.

It authorizes the National Crime Records Bureau to create a central repository of this evidence and share it with law enforcement agencies. There have been questions regarding legal validity of the bill.

What makes a law constitutionally valid?

To be constitutionally valid, the law must be validly enacted, serve a legitimate purpose, and any curtailment of fundamental rights for this purpose must not be excessive.

The earlier law, the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, was limited to serious offenders only. Various states have also broadened the scope of this act. For example – Tamil Nadu has enabled collection of blood samples.

What has been the global trend?

Countries such as the USA and UK have empowered their enforcement agencies to collect, store and analyze physical evidence from arrestees and detainees for specific classes of offences. The US maintains DNA indexing systems at the local, state and federal levels. The National DNA Database of the UK is the largest of its kind globally.

What are the shortcomings of the new Bill?

  1. Blanket provisions – The Bill allows police to collect samples not only from convicts but also those arrested or detained under any preventive detention law.
  2. Lack of adequate restriction on storage, sharing, or usage of the collected data. For example, the US system have strong protocols in place.
  3. Violation of fundamental right to privacy as declared by S. Puttaswamy case.
  4. Violative of Article 20(3) – right against self-incrimination.

Way forward: Such practices that involve the collection, storage and destruction of vital details of a personal nature ought to be introduced only after a strong data protection law, with stringent punishment for breaches, is in place.

Source: This post is created based on the article “On Prisoners’ identification Bill/ Why the Criminal Identification Bill overreached” published in The Hindu/ Times of India on 31st March 2022.

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