The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 that would allow the police and prison authorities to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples, including retina and iris scans, was introduced in Lok Sabha on Monday amid strong protests from Opposition members, who forced a vote on the issue and termed the Bill ‘unconstitutional’.
The Bill also seeks to apply these provisions to persons held under any preventive detention law. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be the repository of physical and biological samples, signature and handwriting data that can be preserved for at least 75 years.
The Bill also authorises for taking measurements of convicts and "other persons" for identification and investigation in criminal matters. It doesn't define the "other persons" implying its ambit beyond convicts, arrested persons, or detainees.
Police personnel up to the rank of Head Constable have been authorised to record the measurements. It also enables NCRB to share the records with any other law enforcement agency.
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. BSP member Ritesh Pandey pointed out that the Bill proposes to collect samples even from protestors engaged in political protests.
The Bill could be introduced by Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’ only after a division of votes in which 120 members voted in favour of the introducing it while while 58 members voted against. The government was taken by surprise when the Opposition demanded a division of votes as not only were senior ministers like Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari absent from the House but even Treasury Benches were not full.
While the Bill was being moved by Mr Mishra, whose son is accused of running over farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri (Uttar Pradesh) last year, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury interrupted him. The Minister responded by saying that he would quit politics if there was even one single criminal case against him.
Congress member Manish Tewari argued that the Bill, which implied use of force in collection of biological information, could also lead to narco analysis and brain mapping, and claimed that it violates Article 20 (3) of the Constitution as well as the Supreme Court judgement in the K.S. Puttaswamy case.
RSP member N.K. Premachandran, Trinamool member Saugata Roy, Mr Chowdhury and Mr. Pandey also opposed the introduction of the Bill. Mr Premachandran argued that Bill violates human rights provisions as laid out in the United Nations charter.
Dismissing the apprehensions, the Minister said Bill was required to make provisions for the use of modern techniques to capture and record appropriate body measurements. He pointed out that the existing law — the Identification of Prisoners Act — dated back to 1920 and allowed taking only finger print and foot print impressions of a limited category of convicted persons.
The Bill seeks to repeal The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 whose scope was limited to taking recording finger impressions and foot-print impressions of limited category of convicted and non-convicted persons and photographs on the order of a Magistrate.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill said that new ‘‘measurement’’ techniques being used in advanced countries are giving credible and reliable results and are recognised world over. “The Act (Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920) does not provide for taking these body measurements as many of the techniques and technologies had not been developed at that point of time. It is, therefore, essential to make provisions for modern techniques to capture and record appropriate body measurements in place of existing limited measurements,” it said.
The Bill seeks to expand the ‘‘ambit of persons’’ whose measurements can be taken as this will help the investigating agencies to gather sufficient legally admissible evidence and establish the crime of the accused person.
“Therefore, there is a need for expanding the scope and ambit of the ‘‘measurements’’ which can be taken under the provisions of law as it will help in unique identification of a person involved in any crime and will assist the investigating agencies in solving the criminal case,” it says.
The bill provides legal sanction for taking appropriate body measurements of persons who are required to give such measurements and will make the investigation of crime more efficient and expeditious and will also help in increasing the conviction rate.
The Bill seeks to to define ‘‘measurements’’ to include finger-impressions, palm-print and foot-print impressions, photographs, iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples and their analysis and empowers the NCRB to collect, store and preserve the record of measurements and for sharing, dissemination, destruction and disposal of records. It empowers a Magistrate to direct any person to give measurements and also empowers the police or prison officer to take measurements of any person who resists or refuses to give measurements.
“Resistance to or refusal to allow the taking of measurements under this Act shall be deemed to be an offence under section 186 of the Indian Penal Code,” the bill states.
“Provided that where any person, who has not been previously convicted of an offence punishable under any law with imprisonment for any term, has had his measurements taken according to the provisions of this Act, is released without trial or discharged or acquitted by the court, after exhausting all legal remedies, all records of measurements so taken shall, unless the court or Magistrate, for reasons to be recorded in writing otherwise directs, be destroyed from records,” the bill states.