Indian Parliament Passes Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill  

The Rajya Sabha passed the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill 2022 on 4 April 2022. It seeks to authorise collecting, storing, and analysing biometric samples of convicts and others involved in criminal matters.

The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill 2022 replaces the Identification of Prisoners Act of 1920.

Home Minister Amit Shah stated that the data collected would be protected and shared through a secure mechanism so that people’s privacy is not risked.

“There are more stringent laws in countries like South Africa, U.K., Australia, Canada, U.S., which is why their conviction rate is better,” he said. He added that our law is ‘bachha’ (like a child), it is not as strict as the laws of other countries.

He noted that the Bill is capable of increasing the rate of conviction and forensic capacity and collecting scientific evidence. Also, it will eliminate third-degree methods against those accused of crimes. He added that new techniques are essential to tackle new-generation crimes.

‘We will ensure that the political agitators do not have to give their physical and biological samples. But if leaders are arrested in a criminal case, they will have to give their samples,” the Home Minister added.

Objectives of the Bill

The Bill proposes to allow the Police to collect finger impressions, palm prints impressions, footprint impressions, photographs, iris and retina scans, and physical and biological samples.

It also proposes collecting behavioural attributes, including signatures, handwriting, or other examination referred under Section 53 or Section 53A of CrPC.

Presently, the Police are permitted to take finger and footprint impressions of a limited category of convicts and non-convicted persons.

Section 3 in the Bill states that any person who has been convicted of an offence punishable under any law, shall, allow his measurement to be taken by the Police.

It further provides that denying to give the measurements will be an offence under Section 186 of IPC. It will attract a jail term of three months or a fine up to Rs 500 or both.

Storage of records

Shah clarified that the Bill had been brought in to ensure that Police and investigators remain two steps ahead of criminals.

The Home Minister said that the provisions would be used only in the cases of heinous crimes, and corresponding clarifications will follow in the Rules. He also assured us that the data would not be made available to the Police agencies. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be accountable for the storage and maintenance of the records.

Under the new Bill, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has been the nodal agency to store the physical and biological samples, signatures and handwriting data.

The Bill allows NCRB to preserve the data for at least 75 years. The NCRB has also been empowered to share the records with other law enforcement agencies.

As per the Bill, law enforcement agencies will be able to take measurements of convicts and “any other persons” for identification and investigation in criminal matters on a magistrate’s order.

The Bill says that those who are not convicted or arrested for crimes against women or children or those in custody for an offence punishable with imprisonment for a period less than seven years can deny permission to give their biological samples.

While consent will be taken before taking biological samples, the Bill allows for the forceful collection of such samples from persons arrested for offences against a woman or a child or if the offence carries a minimum of seven years imprisonment.

Criticism of the Bill

Congress leader P. Chidambaram opposed the Bill by saying that it was unconstitutional and violated the people’s liberty, privacy, and dignity.

“The Bill wasn’t referred to a select committee,” he said, adding that the government had not considered the Supreme Court’s historic verdicts in Selvi and Puttaswamy cases.

“In the Selvi case, the court said that polygraphy, narcoanalysis, and brain electrical activation profile (BEAP) violate an individual’s rights,” Chidambaram noted.

He also pointed to another section of the Bill, which says records collected could be shared with any law enforcement agency and noted that there was no definition for a law enforcement agency.

He noted that the European Court of Human Rights stated that the retention and storage of fingerprints, DNA profile, and cellular samples without consent are violations of human rights.

“There is no scientific basis to presume that any of the measurements, including handwriting, and fingerprints is unique to a person,” Chidambaram added.

CPI MP Binoy Viswam said the Bill was harsh. He added that the Centre wanted to threaten everybody.

“You want to take away all the human rights. You want to take the rights of the democratic movement of the country. This government has no regard for freedom,” he said.

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