As the final week of the Budget Session gets underway, the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022, was discussed in the lower house. Union Home Minister Amit Shah responded to the opposition’s critiques, saying that the bill only aimed to strengthen India’s internal security and not with any other intention. Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day after continued opposition ruckus over not being heard.
Quasi-Khalistani group Dal Khalsa has termed the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 as a move by the Narendra Modi government to infringe on the fundamental rights of the people. Dal Khalsa secretary for human rights affairs Imaan Singh Khara had earlier urged MPs of parties other than the BJP and civil liberty and human rights groups to oppose the bill, which he said threatened the constitutional rights of convicts, accused and political protesters.
But Amit Shah said in the Lok Sabha, “The opposition is talking about UAPA. UAPA Amendment was brought in by Mr Chidambaram, we supported it. How has UAPA been misused? POTA was a law, it was abrogated for appeasement, I stand by this statement.”
The bill, on becoming law, will further increase surveillance of the state on people, said Khara, a lawyer.
Shah responded to such critique by saying, “The whole world is making use of databases. Why are you scared of it? How long will we live in the British era? We have to use it to solve problems of today.”
Going by the text of the proposed law, the bill proposes to empower police and prison authorities to take “measurements of convicts and other persons for the purposes of identification and investigation in criminal matters”. The term “measurements” includes finger impressions, palm-print impressions, foot-print impressions, photographs, iris and retina scans, and even biological samples.
Khara said the proposed law will violate the right to privacy and the right against self-incrimination of convicts and others.
To that, Shah said, “For all those who are worried about privacy and human rights, there has been no leakage so far. There has been no complaint of misuse of this law in any of India’s courts. Why are we doubting everything?”
The Dal Khalsa leader said it was ironic that the bill placed the privacy of individuals, who are not convicted of any offence, at the mercy of the state.
The home minister said, “This government is ready for discussion as long as it is based on reality and facts, not to please a particular vote bank.”
Demanding the proposed law to be struck down, he said the provision that implies the use of force to take measurements violates the rights of the prisoners laid down by Supreme Court judgments.
Highlighting the agitation led by farmers at Delhi’s borders by farmers forcing the union government to repeal the three farm reform laws, Khara said that in future, participation of the masses in any such protest will provide the government and its agencies an opportunity to invoke the proposed law. He also said that analysis of biological samples under this bill could lead to narco-analysis and brain mapping.
Khara pointed out that the Bill violated the fundamental rights of citizens and did not comply with Article 20 (3) of the Constitution of India, which explicitly states that no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
“This bill is fraught with the dangers of serious infringements on civil liberties. We can’t have chalk and cheese. I want to advise to the government that there have been cases against all of us, including Prime Minister Modi, Amit Shah and myself. Before telling others to provide their biometric, let us give ours first. This is just citizenry profiling, nothing else,” INC’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury protested.
Syed Imtiaz Jaleel of the AIMIM opposed the bill, saying that the government had refused to put any safeguards to ensure the Bill is not used misused. He also stressed the empowerment of the NCRB to take personal information under the Bill, pointing out that it is not even a statutory body. He also said the Bill violates citizens’ right to privacy.
“This bill will brutalise and silence any opposition. The home ministry says trust us and we would like to trust you but look at UAPA and its misuse. The number of arrests has risen sharply under the UAPA,” said Trinamool Congress’s Mahua Moitra.
Shah justifies criminal identification bill
Shah had answers to all misgivings. He said, “Now the opposition will say that the Bill is being brought to trouble one minority. The word ‘minority’ has not even been mentioned in this bill. I would implore the Opposition to read my Bill before criticising it.”
“Crime and criminals now use technology and have been on the rise. Now, not giving police a way to fight that is like tying up someone’s hands and legs and putting them in a swimming pool to get a gold medal,” the union home minister said.
“The opposition asked what the need for this Bill is. NCRB data from 2020 shows that only 44% of the murder cases were brought to justice. In the case of dacoity, it was only 29% and cases of attempts to murder were fewer too. If you study worldwide data, England is 83.6%, Canada is 68% and South Africa is 82%. All these countries are champions of human rights, and they have much tougher laws in place,” Shah said, defending the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022.
“The opposition is saying that there shouldn’t be haste in passing the bill. I am of the opinion that it is 102 years late. The bill has been brought to drive up convictions. The bill wants to send a tough message to law-breakers,” the home minister said.
“The government wants to ensure that the bill is not being brought for misuse. There is no possibility of misuse of data. It has been brought in line with the change in times. The opposition is worried about the human rights of thieves and rapists.
“The CAA, the UAPA and removing Article 370 show Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah’s commitment to India’s development,” Nishikant Dubey said in the Lok Sabha.