Published: 08th April 2022
What The FAQ: Will the recently passed Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill inspire fear or confidence?
The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill was recently passed by the Parliament. The issue has become a hot potato ever since. Here's why there is such a row going on about it
In the Indian Parliament on Wednesday, April 6, the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill was passed. It was cleared by the Rajya Sabha, two days after it had been passed by the Lok Sabha. After its clearance, several sections of people started expressing their concerns over it, while the Union government emphasises that it will empower the police. Though the benefits of the Bill remain dubious, it will help to understand what the Bill is about in detail.
What is the new Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill?
The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill is meant for investigating officers and agencies. It allows the law enforcement agencies, especially the police, to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples of the accused or convicted for the purpose of identification and investigation of criminal matters.
Why was it passed?
It was passed to enable faster criminal investigations. The Bill is important because it is the first amendment made to the existing Identification of Prisoners Act of 1920 in over a century. It adds much more to the 1920 Act and grants the police a few special powers, like taking body measurements of the accused and suspected, to aid the investigations.
What are the new powers given to the investigating agencies?
Earlier in the 1920 Act, biometric information like finger and foot prints were allowed to be collected. But with this amendment Bill, investigating agencies can also collect other biometric data like body measurements, blood, semen, hair samples, swabs and DNA profiling. Certain behavioural attributes like signatures and handwriting samples can also be collected. It also allows for the samples to be taken forcibly only from persons arrested for offences against a woman or a child or if the offence carries a minimum of seven years imprisonment. And interestingly, the collected samples do not need to have any relationship with the evidence required for the case. They can be collected on mere suspicion by the investigative agencies.
The Bill also allows more officers to collect these samples, a power which was limited to a very few persons of rank in the earlier Act. Now, the collections of these biometric samples can be done by the metropolitan, executive and judicial magistrates, the head warder of a prison and the head constable.
Then why is it being opposed?
Several people are claiming that the Bill violates the right against self-incrimination. They further opine that the bill provides unchecked powers to the investigating authorities, as well as the central government. During the discussion on the bill in the Rajya Sabha, opposition members actually favoured sending the bill to a select committee for more deliberations, but this was rejected.
While Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram called it "unconstitutional" and "illegal", Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) opposed the bill terming it draconian. In the same vein, Tiruchi Siva of DMK opposed the Bill and asked the government to send it to the select committee so that anomalies can be removed.
What the government has to say about it?
"I want to assure that this is not going to violate privacy of anyone," Home Minister Amit Shah said. The Rajya Sabha passed the bill by a voice vote only after he had allayed the concerns raised by the opposition. He made it clear that the biometric data of political detainees will not be collected if they have been detained during participation in any agitation. The Home Minister further assured that the data collected will remain completely secure and the government will make sure there are no loopholes in the Bill that can lead to the violation of privacy and human rights.