This is a criminal attack on privacy 

News: Recently, the Criminal procedure (Identification) Bill 2022 was introduced in the parliament by the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs.

The Bill aims to replace the Identification of Prisoners Act 1920 that has been in need of amendment for several decades. 

What has been proposed in the bill? 

The definition of measurements has been proposed to be broadened.

It would include new techniques like iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples etc.” in addition to behavioural measurement like signatures”

The definition has also allowed the police machinery to do analysis of the measurement. 

Data capture and ‘choice’: The proposed bill allows the police and prison officials to take measurements of all persons who are placed under arrest. It will include those who are arrested for petty crimes like a traffic violation, etc.  

However, at present, data is collected only of convicts or persons arrested for an offence which is punishable with a minimum of one year’s imprisonment. 

Storage of Data: It allows the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to collect data and maintain it as a digital record for a period of 75 years. It will be used for prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of any offense”.  

What are the issues in the proposed bill? 

The Bill was neither put up for pre-legislative consultation. It was also not indicated in the legislative agenda in the Parliament session.  

The proposed Bill states that a person, “may not be obliged to allow taking of his biological samples”. It means it offers a choice to a person to refuse to give biological samples.

Firstly, this “choice” is limited to “biological samples”. It is not applicable to “iris and retina scan”.

Second, the person can exercise his choice only if a police officer confers such a choice to a person. It means, a police officer has discretion. It can lead to misuse of discretion. 

The proposed bill does not talk about the manner in which the records will be used for preventing crime. In fact, it means it may lead to surveillance. 

It may lead to the development of parallel databases of the “measurements” by the law enforcement agencies. For example, Rajasthan and Punjab State Police departments already have such databases. The proposed law has also not been linked to a centralised database called as the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) which is operated by NCRB. 

Absence of a data protection law means the database will suffer from weak enforcement.

Once an innocent person or the masses who lack social and economic power in Indian society enter their “measurements” within the system, they will be subjected to it almost for their entire life. For example, Pardhi Adivasi community which was once designated as a criminal tribe has continued to face preventive surveillance and predictive policing based on caste-system for centuries.  

Way Forward 

The Supreme Court of India pronounced “Right to privacy is a fundamental right” in the Puttaswamy judgment 

Therefore, the legislature and the executive have the responsibility to protect the fundamental right to privacy.  

This protection is important to prove that India is a constitutional democracy, rather than a mere electoral democracy. 

Source: The post is based on an article “This is a criminal attack on privacy” published in The Hindu on 1st April 22. 

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