The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 28, 2022. The Bill replaces the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920.
The 1920 Act authorises the investigative agencies of the state to collect definite kinds of identifiable information and details about persons convicted for a crime, for purposes of investigation. The new Bill seeks to expand the ambit of such details, as well as of the persons whose details can be taken. It authorises the National Crime Records Bureau to collect, store and preserve these details.
While the Act allows the collections of details such as finger and footprint impressions, the Bill expands the list to include palm-print impressions, iris and retina scans, signature and handwriting and other physical and biological samples such as blood, semen, hair samples and swabs and their analyses.
Under the 1920 Act, persons convicted of or arrested in connection with certain punishable offences and persons required to give security for others charged with such offences would be required to give these details. The 2022 Bill widens the ambit of persons required to give such details, to include all charged, convicted or arrested persons, as well as persons detained under any preventive detention law.
The Bill allows for the details collected to be retained in digital or electronic form for 75 years from the date of collection. Any exception to this can be made only on the written orders of a court or magistrate.
The Bill authorizes prison head warders and police officers in charge of police stations, of the rank of Head Constable and above, to collect such details by any of the standard means adopted by the central government or state governments. Resistance or refusal by a person, to give such details, will be considered an offence under the Indian Penal Code.
The Bill empowers the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to collect the details about persons from state governments, union territory (UT) administrations, or other law enforcement agencies. The NCRB will also be empowered to store or destroy the details collected, process them with criminal records and disseminate the details to law enforcement agencies of the central and state governments. The Bill gives the central and state governments the power to make rules regarding the manner of collection, storage, preservation, destruction, dissemination and disposal of details by NCRB.
The Bill constitutes a grave attack on the democratic rights of our people. It gives draconian powers to the state to extract and hold in its records biometric and all kinds of other information about people whom the police may charge with any form of “violation of law”, which can be invoked to include all forms of protest actions. The police and investigative authorities will be permitted to use all kinds of methods, including threat and torture, to collect the information. A person who refuses to give such details will be treated as a criminal. The central and state governments and their investigative agencies will have full access to these records, even after the person is declared innocent of all charges.
This data can be used for continuous surveillance over a person’s activities, her/his association with any political party or organisation. It can be used to harass, intimidate and terrorise people who raise their voice against injustice in the society. It can be used to target all political opponents of the political party in power. It can be used to plant false evidence against persons who can then be charged by the police with crimes they did not commit. It can be used to falsely implicate and thereby repeatedly deny justice to persons arrested and jailed under preventive detention laws such as UAPA, leading to long years of detention, even if the person is later declared by the courts to be innocent. The exposure of this data can lead to false propaganda against persons and organisations, for the purpose of discrediting, isolating and attacking them.
The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 is clearly an attempt by the state to criminalise all forms of protest and to terrorise people. It is indicative of the increasing fascist powers that the state aims to arm itself with, to crush any form of opposition to the brutal rule of the big monopoly capitalists.
All those who uphold the democratic rights of our people must vigorously oppose the Bill and prevent it from becoming a law.