The Lok Sabha on Monday cleared the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022, which proposes to enable police to collect biometric measurements of arrested or convicted prisoners.
The biometric measurements involve storing and analysing physical and biological samples, iris and retina scans, signatures and handwriting of prisoners. It would also be applied to persons detained under preventive detention laws.
The Bill aims to replace the 102-year-old Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 and was passed through a voice vote in the House.
It was opposed by several members of the Opposition, who had demanded the Bill be sent to a parliamentary standing or select committee for detailed discussion and improvement, The Hindu reported.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, however, said that the Bill is meant to ensure that police and investigators are two steps ahead of criminals, according to The Indian Express.
“We have no intention of misusing the provisions of the Bill,” Shah said while replying to a debate on the Bill. “It is meant to keep our police ahead of criminals. Next-generation crimes cannot be tackled with old techniques… We have to try to take [the] criminal justice system to the next era.”
Shah said the Bill was brought with an aim of increasing conviction rates in the country. “I believe that justice delayed is justice denied. Rule of law can be established only when criminals are punished promptly,” he said, according to Hindustan Times.
He also said that the best technology would be used for safeguarding the data collected under the law.
Earlier, while taking part in the debate, Congress leader Manish Tewari said that the Bill paves the way for India to become a surveillance state.
“It [the Bill] is also against the widely accepted dictum that everyone should be treated innocent unless proven guilty,” Tewari said, according to The Indian Express. “The provisions of the Bill are very wide and ambiguous, and can be misused by the state and the police.”
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Dayanidhi Maran said the law was “terrorising”.
“What is the rush? I request the home minister not to rush,” Maran said, according to Hindustan Times. “Your government is known to target the minorities. Any law you bring first targets minorities.”
Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra said that even though the Bill sought to replace a 102-year-old colonial law, it has fewer safeguards than those enacted by the British, according to The Hindu.
“This law is being proposed in the absence of any overreaching Data Protection law, which India so desperately needs today,” Moitra said.