Coverage of this Article
- The Act was titled the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022.
2. The Legal structure
- Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code empowers the police to interrogate the accused during the investigation process.
3. Need of the Hour
- The State of UP v. Ram Babu Misra case
4. Forensic Science and the Act
- In courtrooms, the admissibility of forensic reports is outlined in Sections 45 and 46 of the Indian Evidence Act, offering a concise understanding of the matter.
5. Concerns and possible limitations
- These measures will aid in identifying potential suspects involved in criminal cases more accurately.
- The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022 grants police the legal authorization to collect bodily and biological samples from suspects and criminal defendants for identification and criminal investigations.
- The CrPC is the primary legislation governing procedural aspects of criminal law, and the Magistrate is required to provide both the prosecution and accused a chance to be heard and exercise judicial judgement when evaluating discharge applications.
- The Identification Act broadens the scope of individuals from whom measurements can be obtained, allowing for modern techniques, enhanced investigation efficiency, and assistance to investigating agencies.
- On the flip side, this measure compromises the right to privacy for convicted individuals and common citizens in India, allowing for coercive collection of samples and data management set at 75 years.
- To effectively identify suspects in criminal trials, a strong data security law, forensic labs, and cutting-edge technology are required.
This legislation, effective from April 18, 2022, was established to grant authorization for the collection of measurements from convicts and other individuals for the purpose of identification and criminal investigations.
Additionally, it aims to maintain records and address related matters. The Parliament of the Republic of India enacted this law in its seventy-third year.
The Act was titled the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022. It replaces the Identification of Prisoners Act of 1920, a colonial-era statute that allowed police to measure suspects who had been convicted, detained, or were awaiting trial and gives the police the legal authorization to collect bodily and biological samples from suspects and criminal defendants alike.
The Legal structure
Under the provisions of either section 53 or section 53A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, the police are authorized to gather certain types of data. This data includes finger impressions, palm-print impressions, footprint impressions, photographs, iris and retina scans, physical and biological samples, as well as their subsequent analysis, and behavioural attributes such as signatures, handwriting, or any other examination. The CrPC serves as the primary legislation governing the procedural aspects of criminal law.
In addition to taking note of the police report and the supporting papers, the Magistrate is required by Section 239 Cr. P.C. to provide both the prosecution and the accused a chance to be heard. When evaluating the discharge application, the magistrate should exercise judicial judgement.
Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code empowers the police to interrogate the accused during the investigation process. Cooperation from individuals is crucial for the proper functioning of the criminal justice system. It is the responsibility of every person to aid the state in identifying crimes and ensuring that criminals are held accountable for their actions.
The Crime Branch, Crime Investigation Department (CB-CID) holds a prominent position within the police force, being one of the most crucial units. Its primary focus lies in matters related to crime, investigation, prosecution, and the gathering of criminal intelligence. On the other hand, the State Special Branch primarily specializes in gathering, organizing, and sharing intelligence concerning political, communal, terrorist, and labor activities. It also deals with issues related to law and order, such as agitations, strikes, demonstrations, and similar events.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is responsible for the storage, preservation, sharing, and eventual destruction of measurement records at the national level. These records can be retained for a maximum period of 75 years. The primary objective of the NCRB is to facilitate the unique identification of individuals involved in criminal activities and assist investigating agencies in solving cases.
Need of the Hour
This statute was examined in 1980 for the 87th Report of the Law Commission of India, which made various recommendations for changes.
The State of UP v. Ram Babu Misra case, in which the Supreme Court emphasised the necessity for this law's amendment, served as the backdrop for this action. The first set of suggestions outlined the necessity of amending the Act to include "palm impressions," "specimen of signature or writing," and "specimen of voice" as measurements.
The initial set of recommendations emphasized the necessity of amending the Act to broaden the range of measurements, encompassing "palm impressions," "samples of signature or writing," and "voice samples." On the other hand, the subsequent set of recommendations highlighted the importance of permitting measurements to be taken for proceedings that extend beyond those specified under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
The Law Commission Report also points out that the numerous changes that several States have made to the Act demonstrate the need for an update.
More types of "measurements" that can be employed by law enforcement authorities for investigations were thought to be necessary in light of recent forensics developments.
Forensic Science and the Act
In courtrooms, the admissibility of forensic reports is outlined in Sections 45 and 46 of the Indian Evidence Act, offering a concise understanding of the matter.
Forensic science is a vital component of the criminal justice system, involving the analysis of scientific and physical evidence gathered from crime scenes. Forensic investigations also delve into the motives behind the crime, reconstructing the profiles of both the suspect and the victim.
It plays a crucial role in criminal cases, meticulously analyzing evidence to ensure its integrity and prevent manipulation. For instance, forensic pathologists conduct autopsies to determine the cause of death, examining body fluids and tissues. Physical evidence collected from crime scenes, such as fingerprints, blood, and hair, is scrutinized by forensic experts to identify potential suspects. Additionally, forensic tools like image manipulation are utilized to digitally age images and gain insights into the appearance of long-term fugitives.
Each criminal investigation presents its unique challenges, requiring a diverse range of forensic science techniques and resources. Evidence is collected from crime scenes or eyewitnesses, analyzed in forensic laboratories, and ultimately presented to the court.
Scope of the Identification Act
- Utilization of Contemporary Methods:
The Act includes provisions that enable the utilization of modern techniques for capturing and documenting relevant bodily measurements. The previous legislation only permitted the collection of fingerprint and footprint impressions from a restricted group of convicted individuals.
- Enhancing Investigation Efficiency:
The Act grants legal authorization for obtaining relevant bodily measurements from individuals obligated to provide such measurements. This provision will enhance the efficiency and promptness of criminal investigations, ultimately contributing to an increased conviction rate.
- Assistance to Investigating Agencies:
The Act aims to broaden the scope of individuals from whom measurements can be obtained, thereby assisting investigating agencies in gathering substantial evidence that holds legal validity and establishing the guilt of the accused party.
Concerns and possible limitations
- Privacy Infringement:
The proposed legislative measure, despite its seemingly technical nature, compromises the right to privacy not only for convicted individuals but also for every common citizen in India. It includes provisions that permit the collection of samples even from individuals participating in political protests.
- Article 20 Infringement:
The proposed legislation allows for the coercive collection of samples, which raises concerns regarding a possible violation of Article 20(3) safeguarding the right against self-incrimination. The use of force in obtaining biological information as implied by the Bill could also pave the way for techniques like narco analysis and brain mapping.
- Data Management:
The duration of record preservation, set at 75 years, raises additional concerns about how the collected data will be stored, shared, disseminated, and ultimately destroyed. There is a potential for mass surveillance as well, as the database established under this law may be merged with other databases such as the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems.
- Unclear Clauses:
Replacing the 1920 Identification of Prisoners Act, the new law significantly broadens its scope and applicability. The term "biological samples" remains ambiguous, leaving room for interpretations that may involve invasive procedures such as blood and hair extraction or the collection of DNA samples. Currently, such acts require written authorization from a magistrate.
Also, a series of Supreme Court decisions depicts the violation of prisoner’s rights including -AK Gopalan v. State of Madras [ AIR 1950 SC 27] wherein:
A.K. Gopalan challenged his detention by filing a writ petition before the Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of the Preventive Detention Act. The court interpreted Article 21 narrowly, protecting procedural rights and not substantive rights. This ruling has been criticized for its narrow interpretation of fundamental rights, leading to a more liberal approach by the judiciary.
In terms of the Puttaswamy case, Section 4(2) of the Criminal Procedure Identification Act mandates that a record of measurement must be kept on file for 75 years following the date of collection, which is incompatible with the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution and the right to be forgotten.
Concerns surrounding privacy and data security, the need for a robust data protection law, and the need to balance law enforcement and victim support. Additionally, there is a pressing need to increase the number of experts trained in the collection of crime scene measurements, establish more forensic laboratories, and acquire advanced equipment for analysis. These measures will aid in identifying potential suspects involved in criminal cases more accurately.