The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 was introduced in Lok Sabha on March 28, 2022. The Bill seeks to replace the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920.
The Bill expands:
(i) the type of data that may be collected i.e., fingerprints, foot-print impressions, photographs, biological samples and their analysis, behavioural attributes including signatures, handwriting, and examinations under sections 53 and 53A of Cr.P.C. (includes blood, semen, hair samples, and swabs, and analyses such as DNA profiling),
(ii) persons from whom such data may be collected, and
(iii) the authority that may authorise such collection.
It also provides for the collected data to be retained in digital or electronic form in a central database for a period of 75 years. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be the central agency to maintain the records. It will share the data with law enforcement agencies.
Records will be destroyed in case of persons who are acquitted after all appeals or released without trial. However, in such cases, a Court or Magistrate may direct the retention of details after recording reasons in writing. Under both the 1920 Act and the 2022 Bill, resistance or refusal to give data will be deemed to be an offence of obstructing a public servant from doing his duty.
Team Vox Legis discussed the importance of this Bill with criminal law expert Senior Advocate Ajay Joshi, Gujarat High Court.
1. The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 which is the first amendment made to the Act in over a century, expands the horizon of data which can be collected by the authorities and persons from whom such data can be collected, what is your view on this amendment?
The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act plays an important role in the process of identification of a person committing a crime, the data is required and essential for the investigation process. Widening the scope of data that can be collected would result in speedy identifications of accused persons and immensely help the investigation process.
Furthermore, this amendment is important because this could enable easier identification of the criminal if he commits a similar crime in the future.
2. How would the collection of such additional data help the investigation process? Can we expect the collection of such data to help speed up the process of investigation and trial in the future?
Yes, the collection of such additional data would definitely help speed up the investigation process because in our country we often see that crimes go unsolved or offenders are not punished because there are cracks in the investigation process.
Criminals many a time are not arrested because there exists a lack of evidence against them. If a database of identification evidence is available to the investigation agencies, then they might be able to find the offender in a speedier and more efficient way. This would also help the State to prosecute offenders in a timely manner.
As far as, society is concerned this amendment helps achieve the law and order that is desired by all members of society. Hence, it can be said that this amendment will help the overall justice system become swifter.
3. While this amendment seems like the next step in the advancement of criminal investigation there is some discourse about such a collection of data being a potential threat to the Right to Privacy of the accused, what’s your opinion of this? Further, would this amendment affect the Right against Self-incrimination of an accused person?
A person who commits a crime has done wrong towards society as a whole and therefore the privacy of such a person cannot be the reason that the process of investigation is hindered. While rights and duties go hand in hand therefore where there exists a right of the accused there are also rights of citizens and society that need to be considered.
Furthermore, every citizen also has some duties towards their nation. Therefore, it would be justifiable to impose some restrictions on the rights of the accused to ensure that due process of justice can be conducted. So, I do not believe that collection of such data would infringe the rights of an accused.
Further, While the Right against forced Self-incrimination enshrined in Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution protects the accused from forced confessions, it cannot be used to avoid or discourage fair and proper investigation.
4. Alongside the collection of such data, Clause 4 (2) of the Bill allows for the retention of records of collected data for 75 Years, but can it be said that such a provision would be infringing the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ of an accused as recognised by the Supreme Court in K. S. Puttaswamy and Anr. vs. Union of India?
I believe the collection of data is one thing, the data collected would solely be used for the purpose of identification of criminals and not anything else. Furthermore, the storage of such data by a central agency does not infringe the Right to be Forgotten recognized by the Supreme Court in K. S. Puttaswamy and Anr. vs. Union of India.
As data which will be collected from the accused is solely being done so for the purpose of identification of criminals and will be safeguarded by the respective agency. Hence, I do not believe that it infringes a person’s Right to be Forgotten.
5. Lastly, are there any other identification parameters that should be added to the Act that would further aid the criminal investigation process?
I think this amendment provides adequate power to the government, magistrate and other related agencies for identifying the accused of the crimes committed. Therefore, this is a sufficient add-on to the existing Act according to the present scenario and there are no more parameters that need to be added to the Act.
For example, DNA testing, which is pure science and is recognized all over the world as a valid component of the investigation. This process helps establish a clear path of evidence against the accused and also satisfies the judicial mind of a judge to impart judgement and test the validity of the investigation conducted by the police.
Hence, the inclusion of DNA evidence to be collected as identification evidence via this Bill is important. While these advanced technologies and methods of investigations being used are important.
At the same time, it is important that the machinery and equipment being used by these agencies need to be properly working and taken care of.
Because if that is not the case, they might end up doing more harm to the investigation than helping it. Hence, while this Bill is a step forward there are also many precautions that are necessary to be taken by respective agencies for the successful implication of this Bill.