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21 April 2022, Sansad TV (Youtube)

Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022: An insight

In an interview with Sansad TV, Brijesh Singh, Adjunct Distinguished Fellow, Cybersecurity Studies, Gateway House, and Mahesh Jethmalani, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, analysed the new Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022. They discussed how biometric sample collection will strengthen law enforcement and increase conviction rates.

Adjunct Distinguished Fellow

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This is the transcript of a discussion on the new Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill 2022, which was held on 19 April 2022 on Sansad TV.

Kriti Mishra (KM)– What is the significance of the bill proposed in the Parliament, given the low rate of conviction due to lack of evidence?

Mahesh Jethmalani (MJ)- The bill is meant to encompass the technological strides that have taken place in the field of biometrics which shall result in an increased conviction rate, which is abysmally low. In the US, since the use of biometric testing and retinal scan has been legalised, the conviction rate has gone up to 92%. The main intention of the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill is to allow the modern methods that technology has afforded us to help us in prevention of crime and detection of criminals through biometrics. This Act will make it easier for the law enforcement with regards to recognition and detection of criminals. 

KM- What are the permissible uses of the biometric database and how can we ensure that there’s no possibility of data misuse?

Brijesh Singh (BS)- This Act is more exculpatory than inculpatory in the sense that a chance of wrongful conviction is extremely low, since moving forward we will be relying on resilient scientific evidence. This Act will modernise law enforcement and the impetus is on scientific evidence for the purpose of an increased rate of convictions that are rightful in nature and morally just as well. Through this bill the government also proposes to shorten investigation cycles to increase the efficacy of law enforcement across the country. Let me present you with an example- When a police officer arrives at a crime scene, they take fingerprints of the inmates as well for the purposes of comparison of fingerprints that have been found at the crime scene. Hence the purpose is exculpatory in the sense that it takes away the possibility that this belongs to a particular set of people who are innocent. It is a method of proving innocence and then ensuring guilt, and reaching the truth in a scientific manner and has enough safeguards. 

KM- Do you think we need to ensure that there is effective implementation of this proposed legislation? 

Sharda Prasad (SP)- The present proposed Act has a plethora of clauses that temper it. For example,  the decision-making authority that was the state’s prerogative has now been extended to the central government as well, for a system of checks and balances. This is only one of the provisions for checks and balances within this Act for limiting the misuse of sensitive information. Another example lies in the ambit of data collection and analysis. Guidelines regarding storage, usage and deletion of records have been already specified so as to prevent hindrance in implementing the law in a just manner. 

The National Crime Record Bureau has served as this nation’s storehouse for permissible biometrics. With an addition to the permissible biometrics such as iris recognition and retina recognition techniques there should be no issue with storage as well. NCRB is the correct agency to house these various biometric measurements which are bound to increase in number due to the various technological advancements. 

KM- How would you address the concerns from the opposition stating that this bill may violate citizens’ right to privacy?

JM- As far as the right to privacy is concerned the Supreme Court judgement which members of the opposition rallied around says that the right to privacy is subject to detection of crime. The detection of crime is a higher principle, now more so than ever because correct implementation of this bill shall result in an increased conviction rate and efficient law enforcement. Witnesses may lie but biometrics don’t, hence this bill is rightfully thought out. The retinal and iris scans now are almost foolproof. Carnegie Mellon in the United States has a project that is being implemented  wherein they have a long distance iris scanner that identifies a criminal from even a glance in a rear-view mirror. This bill seeks to establish order in society. It is better than letting criminals go unpunished and innocents being thrown in jail for lack of tools for efficient crime investigation.        

BS- I agree. India emerged as a forerunner of fingerprint technology a long time ago.The first fingerprint bureaus were established in India. We have always looked out for legislation that further advances in technology. We are adopting scientific evidence and giving it a legal standing. In the way AADHAR stack has helped everywhere- right from service delivery to businesses- this bill is going to help us identify prisoners across states. There will be a central database so criminals who flee states will also not be able to evade conviction because the data is available to all levels of law enforcement. Until now there was a jurisdictional limitation where systems were not ready, some people were using manual systems for fingerprints. With a single concerted national database the dissemination of information regarding the criminal’s whereabouts will reach a greater number of officers than ever before.

KM-  What are certain global practices that India can adopt going ahead?

BS- Primarily, the standardisation that is prevalent the world over will be adopted in this regard as well. Also, certain standardisations regarding development in this field like iris recognition and retina recognition are the technological world standard in terms of biometrics. We are adopting the latest techniques, and we hope that they are the best in the world. 

Viewer- Does this bill have the potential of unleashing bureaucratic authoritarianism on the nation in the longer run? 

BS- The provisions specifically mention proceedings to maintain good behaviour. Those are called chapter eight proceedings; which are very specific one-on-one rules and nine very specific processes about maintaining peace and good behaviour. Only in that specific case, do Executive Magistrates have the power to order the function of these samples. In fact Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 also had several provisions where there was a schedule of where the fingerprints and palm prints of people could be collected. 


This interview was originally published in Sansad TV.

Brijesh Singh is Adjunct Distinguished Fellow, Cybersecurity Studies, and Additional Director General of Police, Government of Maharashtra. 

Mahesh Jethmalani is Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha.