ದಿ ಕ್ರಿಮಿನಲ್ ಪ್ರೊಸಿಜರ್ (ಐಡೆಂಟಿಫಿಕೇಷನ್) ಬಿಲ್, ಪೊಲೀಸ್ ಕಣ್ಗಾವಲಿನ ಕರಾಳ ವ್ಯವಸ್ಥೆಗೆ ಇನ್ನಷ್ಟು ಪುಷ್ಠಿ

This article was originally published in Kannada in Naanu Gauri.

The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 was introduced in Lok Sabha on March 28, 2022 and was passed. It will replace the present Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 which lays down specific guidelines on the collection, storage, preservation and destruction of personal details of arrested individuals. The 2022 Bill has been severely criticised for it has serious consequences on the expression of dissent.

 

The proposed Bill is problematic for its violation of privacy of individuals. Under the present 1920 law, details such as only finger prints and foot prints are to be collected, however, the 2022 bill proposes to collect finger-impressions, palm-print impressions, foot-print impressions, photographs, iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples and their analysis, behavioural attributes including signatures, handwriting, and any other medical records.

 

The Supreme court in Puttuswamy judgment (2017) upheld the right to privacy as a constitutionally protected fundamental right.Considering the rising number of crimes regarding informational privacy as well as violation of privacy by both state and non-state entities in the form of surveillance, profiling and data collection and processing, the Court urged the need for better protection of informational privacy of an individual. In particular, the court stressed the need to protect information regarding individuals’ biometric state, such as sex, height, weight, blood type, fingerprint, retina pattern, DNA, or state of health etc.

 

In response to the Supreme Court’s judgment, the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 was tabled in December2019. This bill envisioned a Data Protection Authority of India, which will supervise, through investigative and corrective powers, the application of the data protection law. However, this Bill has been severely criticised for giving arbitrary importance to national security over privacy of an individual; for rendering the Data Protection Authority a toothless commission, given the limited powers entrusted to it and the interference of the government in its appointments. Therefore, in the absence of a compressive data protection law, any action on the part of the State to interfere with the privacy of an individual such as The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 will only be detrimental to our fundamental rights and further state surveillance.

 

The 2022 bill proposes to broaden the scope of the individuals from whom the data can be collected to include persons detained under any Preventive Detention Laws, while under 1920 Act it is only convicts or any other persons arrested in relation to an investigation, if Magistrate feels necessary, that information (only finger prints and foot impression) could be collected. It is important to understand that persons detained under Preventive Detention Laws are merely suspects where the police do not have any kind of evidence against them. Further, most the persons are detained under these laws are usually those who protest and are vocal against anti-people policies of governments. Under the new Bill all these persons will be bound give their personal information as important as DNA to the police.

 

The 2022 Bill will also play a major role in strengthening the caste system within Indian criminal justice system. In the absence of data protection laws, there has been rising number of private technology companies helping the State to digitise police records and the surveillance of “habitual offenders’ and who ‘likely’ to commit crimes. It is important to understand that these police records are heavily influenced by the caste of the individuals.The Hindu upper caste idea of Indian culture has been engrained in the idea of crime and criminality, which is evident from the enactment of the colonial law Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 which targeted and surveilled individuals from specific tribal castes as criminals. Even though it was subsequently repealed and was replaced with the Habitual Offenders Act,1952, even the replacement law was implemented in ways that continued to stigmatise, target and criminalise marginalised castes and tribes. Through this casteist rigged digital database, The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 will further empower the Indian police force to sustain its caste-based criminalisation of marginalised communities, as it will enable the police to collect personal information of these marginalised communities and continue to act with impunity by framing them in false cases violating their fundamental rights.

 

Along with these problems in the 2022, Bill, it enables police officers rank as low as head constables to collect the personal information, while the present Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 only authorises all the police officers above rank of Police sub inspectors to collect the data. Further the Bill empowers NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) to collect all the details of the persons covered under the Bill from State governments, union territory (UT) administrations and preserve it for 75 years from the date of collection can be destroyed before in case of persons who has not been previously convicted, and is acquitted from the case. Further, under the 1920 Act, only the State government is empowered to make rules with respect to the preservation, safe custody, destruction and disposal of records of measurements and photographs, the nature of the measurements that may be taken etc, while the 2022 Bill, enables both Central and the State government to frame rules, opening up the pandora box of multiple inconsistency in rules, ultimately overriding the state rules over the central.

 

The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 itself has several provisions which are anti democratic and raise privacy concerns, however the Parliament without addressing these concerns is proposing to bring the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 which if becomes an actual law, it will be a black day in the Indian jurisprudence of privacy and further strengthen the police surveillance state.