Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill undermines privacy of undertrials, says digital rights group

The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 which was introduced Monday in the Lok Sabha, was done without any public consultation and tremendously undermines the privacy of ordinary citizens and undertrials, said Internet Freedom Foundation.

“It as per it’s objectives and reasons repeals the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, due to, ‘modern techniques to capture and record body measurements’. It further states, ‘it is necessary to expand the, ‘ambit of persons’ whose measurements can be taken,” read a short statement by the digital advocacy group.

Contrasted against the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 the proposed Bill has three expansions to increase surveillance powers, claimed IFF.

IFF statement read: “First, in terms of data points. Clause 2(1 (b) includes, ‘iris and retina scan…biological samples ad their analysis, behavioural attributes’. The second is persons from whom data is gathered. Clause 3(c) includes any person who is arrested under any law (includes petty offences such as traffic violations). Under existing law such information can only be there for convicts or those on bail/security. The third and potentially the most concerning provision is the databasing which will be done by the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) provided under Clause 4. It will collect, store, process and share all such records. The retention period is specified for 75 years.”

According to IFF, the new law now dangerously expands the purpose from identification as per its own statement of objects and reasons to, ‘establish the crime of the accused.’

This is dangerous breach of privacy as there are little safeguards, the Delhi based group said.

IFF went on to say: “It is also not properly understood whether “biological data” will include DNA. DNA use in criminal investigation has been the subject of study under the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018 on which a standing committee has also provided on Feb. 3, 2021. Based on these reasons we cite extreme concern and urge a reference of the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 to an appropriate standing committee for scrutiny. This is especially to ensure compliance of the Supreme Court’s Puttaswamy (Right to Privacy) Judgement.”

The new Bill would enable the police and prison officers across India to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples, iris and retina scan and signature and handwriting of arrested or convicted prisoners, according to The Hindu. The Bill seeks to repeal The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 whose scope was limited to allow for taking of finger impressions and foot-print impressions of limited category of convicted and non-convicted persons and photographs on the order of a Magistrate.

After the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 was moved to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday, Opposition MPs termed the law “draconian” and “violative” of the Constitution.

Congress leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary said that the Bll infringes upon the right to privacy.

“I rise to vehemently oppose the introduction of the Bill. The law can ask those people who have been convicted by the court to give their biometric measurements. However, the present bill seeks to empower the police and court to take measurements of persons who are undertrial and who are suspected to be involved in a case or there is a presumption against a person that he may, in future, commit any illegal act. This provision is violative of Article 21 of the Constitution, i.e., right to freedom and personal liberty,” Chowdhary said.

MP Manish Tewari opposed the Bill saying it violated Article 20 (3) which states, “No person accused of an offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.”

Tewari said that keeping the record of measurements for the next 75 years violates the Right to be Forgotten. “The House must deliberate whether it’s in the legislative competence of the August House to consider such illegal legislation,” Tewari added.

According to TMC member Sougata Ray, an incorrect Bill had been brought before the House and therefore it would be inappropriate to introduce it.

RSP member NK Premachandran said the Bill is “violative” of the Constitution.


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