New Identification Law for Prisoners Is 'Draconian' and 'Illegal', Say Opposition MPs

The Bill seeks to empower Union and state governments to collect fingerprints, retina scans, biological samples and handwriting samples from convicted, arrested or detained persons.

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New Delhi: Opposition members in parliament on Monday termed as “draconian” and “illegal” the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill 2022 that was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Union minister of state for home affairs Ajay Mishra Teni. The minister said the law “will not only help our investigation agencies but also increase prosecution. There is also a chance of an increase in the conviction rate in courts through it.”

While speaking about the Bill, Teni – whose dismissal the opposition has sought in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, where farmers were mowed down allegedly by his son and others – said it would be beneficial for law enforcement agencies.

The Bill provides for taking measurements of convicts and other persons for the purposes of identification and investigation in criminal matters and to preserve records. It states that it had become essential to expand the “ambit of persons” whose measurements can be taken as this will help investigating agencies gather sufficient legally admissible evidence and establish the crime of the accused person.

Elaborating on this aspect, Teni said: “It has been 102 years now. The Identification of Prisoners Act 1920 provided for the collection of only fingerprints and footprints. The world has undergone technological and scientific changes, crime and its trend have increased. That is why we have brought the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022.”

While 120 members voted in favour of its introduction, there were 58 votes against the move.

Reacting to the proposed law, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary said it was a “draconian” piece of legislation as it infringed upon the right to privacy.

Another Congress MP and advocate Manish Tewari said the Bill was “illegal” since it violated Article 20 (3) of the Constitution that safeguards the rights of citizens by providing that “no person accused of an offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”.

Tewari said the proposed law, that also provides for retaining the people’s measurements for 75 years from the date of collection, was in “violation of the Right to be Forgotten enshrined in the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution”.

The legislation seeks to empower the Union and state governments 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” of convicted, arrested or detained persons.

Revolutionary Socialist Party MP from Kerala, N.K. Premachandran, also slammed the Bill, saying it violated the basic rights of individuals. “If I am arrested for picketing for protection of civil rights or any genuine demand, and if an FIR has been launched against me, then a DNA test will be taken. What is this? This is a violation of the basic rights of an individual. What is the logic? What is the reason?” he demanded to know.