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Criminal Protection (Identification) Act, 2022-Explained

On April 18, 2022, the President of India gave his assent to Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022. But now the question arises that what is the purpose of the Act? It seeks to repeals Identification of Prisoner's Act, 1920 (IPA) as it does not serves its purpose anymore.

Then why this Act is surrounded by controversy?
We all know that in Democratic country like India every second legislation comes along with controversy and so does this one too. The principal issue that lies with Section 2(b) - which talks about the term "Measurement". This same term has limited scope in respect to IPA,1920 but after the commencement of the new Act, the scope becomes relatively broader which raise some serious apprehensions.

Now it includes:
fingerprints, palm prints, foot print, photographs, retina and iris scan, physical and biological samples and their analysis and behavioural attributes including signature and handwriting or any other required examination which refers to Sec. 53 and 53A of CrPC, 1973. Similarly, Sec. 311A of CrPC, 1973 provides that if the Magistrate not less than that of Class 1 feels that the handwriting and specimen signature is required for further investigation, they may ask to do so.

Thus, with the addition of words such as retina and iris scan which required modern scientific technique not only provided too much power in the hands of enforcement agency but it also compromises the Prisoner's Rights (self - incrimination) at large.

Precedence to counter Self Incrimination

So far there are two precedence that deals with the same:
  1. State of Bombay v. Kathi Kalu (AIR 1961 SC 1808).
    In this case, it was held that the person facing custody giving his specimen handwriting or signature or impression of their thumb, finger, palm or foot to the investigation officer does not amount to self incrimination and shall be protected under Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution.

    The rational given behind this was that such samples provided by them are innocuous and do not covey information under personal capacity or knowledge of the accused.
  2. Selvi v. State of Karnataka (AIR 2010 SC 1974).
    Testimonial compulsion which lacks free consent is prohibited under Article 20(3).
The Apex court ruled out some guidelines that how physical examination should be performed which does not infringes one's right under Article 20(3).

Not only the above mentioned two precedence but the 41st Law Commission (1969) considered that how physical examination can successfully be performed and at the same time there is no violation of  Article 20(3).

Data and Record in respect to Juvenile

It is known that to protect the rights of an accused booked under juvenile, there is a Special Act known as Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. Now there is a dilemma that what happens if such Measurement is collected by such an accused. Since no disqualification can be performed of the convict of offense by a juvenile, no measurement if taken cannot be utilized for future references as it has to be erased after the completion of punishment by who at the time of committing  the offense was juvenile. The Act does not provides for compulsory recording of measurements for every offences.

Purpose and custodian of records

The principal purpose is to aid the enforcement agencies in the prevention and detection of crimes. Though data collected by Crime and Criminal Tracking Network has aided the agencies in identifying the corpse and stolen and recovered vehicle and mobile phones but the purpose of securing early detection of crimes was not served by this very data grid. So a need of new one was felt which resulted into the drafting of this very bill and now Act.

The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) is responsible for the preservation of data collected by any State or Union territory.

Why not Aadhar data?

Again, the question arises that the government has already collected a plethora of data of almost all the citizens of the country through the help of Aadhar Scheme managed by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), why not utilize this data instead of enforcing new Act? The issue is the stringent provisions of Aadhar (Sharing of Information) Regulation, 2016, under Section 4(1) sharing of data collected by the agency is strictly prohibited to the other agencies for any reason whatsoever.

More or less the Act fulfills the demand of the current generation as the crimes are reaching to new heights and there is dire need of such legislation which aids in early detection before the occurrence of crime (conspiracy) instead of solving it after it has already taken place. The use of scientific method will increase the accuracy for the procurement of samples by the accused and shall expose the real culprit. But the rights of the individual must not be infringed just for the sake of collection of samples.

The data which is proposed to be collected by the help of Measurement does not seems inappropriate by the stated objective of the Act but it could only be observed in long term that what are the benefits and detriments of the legislation because the whole purpose of any legislation made in our country is to serve the people and to prove beneficial for the society but sometimes it has been observed that legislation failed to fulfill its required purpose.

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