SC refuses to entertain plea against validity of CPr (Identification) Act provisions
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a plea challenging the constitutional validity of certain provisions of the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act.
The Act, which received President’s assent on April 19, 2022, empowers police and investigators to obtain physical and biological samples of those accused of crimes.
The Act replaced the century-old Identification of Prisoners Act of 1920, whose scope was limited to capturing finger and footprint impressions and photographs of certain categories of accused under the instructions of a magistrate.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta gave liberty to petitioners Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) and Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project (CPAP), who had jointly filed the petition, to approach the high court.
“Why don’t you go to the high court? We will have the benefit of the high court’s view on the issue,” the bench told advocate Abhinav Sekhri, appearing for IFF.
Arguing that there was a “complex interplay” between various laws, the counsel highlighted the alleged excessive delegation of authority without adequate safeguards for privacy and following the due process.
Urging the court to intervene in the matter, the counsel referred to the change that has been brought about with respect to the rule-making provision and said while “the Identification of Prisoners Act conferred rule-making power only on the states, today, there is a critical change where that field is now occupied by both the Centre and the state. The central rules are also impugned before this court.”
Justice Khanna, however, asked the counsel to approach the high court.
“All constitutional courts are competent to deal with these important issues. Please go there. Sorry,” he said.
The bench ordered, “We are not inclined to entertain the present writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution. We leave it open for the petitioner to approach the jurisdictional high court by a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution. We clarify that we have not made any comments or observations on the merits of the case.”
Article 32 gives every Indian citizen the right to directly approach the Supreme Court in case they are deprived of their fundamental rights and seek constitutional remedy. Article 226 empowers high courts to issue writ orders to any person or authority across their respective jurisdictions.
Apart from providing legal sanction to police to obtain physical and biological samples of convicts and detainees for investigation in criminal matters, the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act also empowers a magistrate to order measurements or photographs of a person to be taken to aid the investigation of an offence.
Under the law, in case of acquittal or discharge of the person, all material must be destroyed.
The Act explains the types of data that may be collected, people from whom such data may be collected and the authority that can authorise such collection. It also provides for the data to be stored in a central database.
Both the 1920 and 2022 laws made it clear that any resistance or refusal to allow collection of data will be considered as an offence of obstructing a public servant from doing his duty.