Expanded scope of biometrics collection, storage for Indian police enters into force
India’s new Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill 2022 which gives police officers the power to collect biometric information of convicts and even criminal suspects, has passed into law and is now effective, according to The Times of India, TOI.
However, the piece of legislation, which was okayed by legislators in April, is facing harsh criticism from rights activists and opposition politicians who believe it infringes on individual rights and freedoms. They law has been described by opposition lawmakers as intrusive and in breach of a Supreme Court’s ruling on personal data privacy.
According to the law, police officers have the authority to collect fingerprints, palm prints and footprints, iris and retina, and behavioral and DNA biometrics as well as analysis of other physical features, signature and handwriting for purposes of criminal investigation.
The biometric data collected can be stored for up to 75 years and used for multiply criminal cases, the report mentions.
Going by the new law, the National Crime Record Bureau (NCBR), a body under the ministry of home affairs, is also empowered to store (in digital form) and share the biometric data collected from state governments and the union territory administrators with any law enforcement agency which makes a request for it. It also has the power to destroy the data when it should.
The current law, compared to the Identification of Prisoners Act of 1920, is wider in scope, notes TOI.
As an example, the new law requires the collection of more biometric information than was the case with its predecessor which required just fingerprints, footprint and facial photos. It also included only offenders of serious offenses. But the new law includes even from people who are arrested and placed in preventive detention under any national law, notes the article.
The new law also makes changes to who may order the collection of biometric data removing “investigating officer” and setting a requirement of authorization from the rank of Head Constable or above, and adding prison Wardens.
Other countries such us as the U.S. and UK also have laws which require the collection of some biometric information from arrested criminal suspects who have not been convicted.
TOI recalls that when the law was tabled in parliament in March as a draft, a number of lawmakers raised opposition to it, saying it could make India a police state.
There are also concerns about the lack of any operational law on personal data protection, which critics say could put people’s personal data in jeopardy.