Exclusive: Rijiju says new criminal ‘identification’ law won’t violate anyone’s privacy

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How will you ensure that the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act is not misused?

The law is the need of the hour for the country. This is progressive and timely legislation because it is necessary to provide law enforcement with the tools to act against criminals appropriately and quickly investigate crimes in step with modern times. The Union Home Minister (Amit Shah) addressed this issue in Parliament. He said that when drafting the rules, the provisions of the Act and its objectives would be properly incorporated.

The government has clarified that no one involved in political unrest will have to give physical or biometric measurements.

How does the new law not conflict with data privacy rules and citizens’ right to privacy?

This law will not violate the privacy of any individual as the data collected will be completely secure. We need to understand that the government is following international best practices followed by other countries in the area of ​​evidentiary evidence to solve crimes. As technological advancements have been made, crime trends have also undergone technological and scientific changes, and laws must keep pace.

So, the current laws were inadequate?

The Prisoner Identification Act was created in 1920. The Act only provided for the collection of fingerprints and footprints, and its scope is very narrow to collect the biometric and physical information of defendants/convicts. After the Law Commission considered the matter, it proposed changes. Discussions have taken place on several occasions about the various provisions of the law aimed at enforcing the collection of this information. The law was passed after due diligence.

What about political detainees?

The government has clarified that no one involved in political unrest will have to give physical or biometric measurements. The law specifies that such (biological) details can only be collected for criminal offenses punishable by more than seven years of imprisonment. However, if there is a criminal case and a political leader is arrested in the criminal case, then he will be treated equally with the citizens.

Your government said it would repeal all outdated laws dating back to British times. What is the progress?

To date, 1,486 laws have been repealed and the process is underway to remove all obsolete laws introduced by the British. We also look forward to removing laws that are out of step with the current situation. All statutes are under review to ensure that outdated statutes are removed promptly.

Is parliamentary control of the judiciary necessary?

The judiciary must remain independent, and I believe that no steps should be taken to dilute the independence of the legislature, executive and judiciary, equally, for a healthy democracy.

Do you agree that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is draconian? Is it time to get rid of it completely?

The law was enacted in 1958 by the then Congress government to suppress insurgent activity in Nagaland and other northeastern states. But now… the law and order situation is much better. Since [Narendra] The Modi government came to power, the government scrapped the application of AFSPA in large parts of the North Eastern states. It has been completely phased out in Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya and is only in force in three districts in eastern Arunachal Pradesh…and two police stations adjoining these districts. It has also been removed from most places in Assam, Manipur and large areas of Nagaland.

Do you agree that the law has been circumvented?

There have been cases of collateral damage because whenever there is a strong law there is always a strong possibility of innocent people [getting caught] in the crosshairs during security operations. This is why the government has started peace talks with a large number of insurgent groups in the northeast. Strict law enforcement is the last resort as security forces need protection to operate in difficult areas, and the flip side is that there are instances of human rights abuses . Government policy is to ensure the use of minimal force; we are trying to bring all the rebel groups to the
negotiation table.

When will there be peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir so that AFSPA can withdraw there as well?

The issue is not of the law itself, but of bringing peace and security to the people, whether in Jammu and Kashmir or in the northeast. This means that when the situation is peaceful on the ground, the need for AFSPA will cease to exist. Compared to the past, the situation has improved considerably.

China has consistently claimed Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet and released official names for the places last year. After the withdrawal of Article 370, how does the government deal with the constant threat on the western and eastern borders?

China’s claims are an attempt to dilute the situation on the ground, but it won’t affect the reality on the ground. The objective of the government is to take measures for the development of border areas, which have been neglected in the past. I can say that after the removal of Article 370, the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are properly benefiting from the programs of the central government. The policy of the previous Congress government was not to develop the border areas, but the Modi government is creating infrastructure in the border areas, whether it is the western or eastern border. Previously, the funds and facilities of the plant were misappropriated by the government and local authorities. But now, all the constitutional guarantees that apply to people across the country also apply to people in Jammu and Kashmir.

I don’t want to talk about external aggression; rather, we strive to bring justice to people who are citizens of the country. The decisions taken by the government are not an attempt to send signals to neighboring countries.

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