Karnataka State passes bill, adds more samples for identification of prisoners

Karnataka Assembly
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Karnataka Assembly

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The Karnataka Legislative Assembly on Friday passed Identification of Prisoners (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, which seeks to include collection of blood, DNA, voice and iris scan samples as measurements of offenders for effective surveillance and prevention of breach of peace and crime.

Bengaluru: The Karnataka Legislative Assembly on Friday passed Identification of Prisoners (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, which seeks to include collection of blood, DNA, voice and iris scan samples as measurements of offenders for effective surveillance and prevention of breach of peace and crime.

The bill, which amends the Central act of Identification of Prisoners with respect to its application to Karnataka, also empowers Superintendent of Police or Deputy Commissioners of Police. In addition to the judicial magistrate first class, to order for collection of measurement to avoid delay and workload.

Piloting the bill in the House, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said, "Till now footprint impressions are being collected. Now, we have added blood, DNA, voice, and iris scan samples to it. Earlier the measurements were collected for those with rigorous imprisonment for a term of one year, now it has been changed to a term of one month."

He said the bill empowers Superintendents and Deputy Commissioner of Polices to order destruction of measurement after a period of 10 years, unless otherwise directed by the court or any other competent authority.

During the discussion on the bill, Congress MLA Tanveer Sait sought information whether collecting measurement was necessary when such details are available in an individual's Aadhaar data.

Another Congress MLA Priyank Kharge said, "The government intends to create a database of biometrics and forensic tools needed for investigation and also sought to know whether the necessary infrastructure is in place." She also wanted to know if the government thought about the right to privacy.

Responding to it, Jnanendra said, "The measurements were collected for those with rigorous imprisonment for a term of one month and above and it will be stored in the criminal tracking system in Bengaluru, so there will be no concerns of any breach."

He said it would also be helpful in identifying habitual offenders. Also passed was a bill providing for the constitution of the Karnataka Prison Development Board for strengthening prisons and initiating correctional administrative measures.

The Assembly also passed two other bills. The Karnataka Prison Development Board Bill provides for initiating measures for skill improvement, welfare of prisoners and prisons staff and expanding prison industries.

The bill, in its statement of objects and reasons, said "it is considered necessary to provide for the constitution of the prison development board for development of modern prison industries and formulate a plan for job oriented technical programmes in different areas, to earn incentives."

The board can suggest ways and means for improving coordination between different stakeholders, examine the present setup of prison industries and formulate a plan for modernisation and to start job oriented programmes including technical oriented ones, keeping in view the needs of prisoners after release, it said.

Congress MLA U T Khader said reforms are needed, but prisons should also be a place of reform and deterrence for prisoners, while highlighting several illegal activities taking place in them.

Pointing out that the Minister for Prisons and other members of the board were all officials, some MLAs wanted non-official members like representatives of social organisations or journalists to be made members to have effective reforms, while others questioned powers of acquisition, maintenance and disposal of land and building given to the board.Minister Jnanendra, in his reply, said the board has been constituted for all-round reforms of prisons and representatives from various departments will be its members. He added that experts can be invited for its meetings to take inputs.

"States like Haryana are generating revenue of about Rs 600 crore from Prisons. Manpower at prisons should not go to waste," he said.

He also made it clear that there should be no doubts about disposing of immovable properties, as it cannot be done without clearance from the government, and there is a clause for it. "The committee will rather look into effective utilisation of prison lands that have been lying unused."

Another bill passed on Friday is, The Code of Criminal Procedure (Karnataka Amendment) Bill that provides for recording of the evidence of the witness by audio-video-electronic means in the presence of the advocate of the person accused of the offence.

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