Home ministry plans database of jail inmates’ fingerprints, critics say it’s a violation of rights

Less than a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for enrolment of prisoners under the the Aadhaar scheme, the home ministry has decided to establish a national dataHome ministry plans database of jail inmates’ fingerprints, critics say it’s a violation of rights – Firstpost

Less than a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for enrolment of prisoners under the the Aadhaar scheme, the home ministry has decided to establish a national database of fingerprints by collating records held by all states, the Economic Times reported on Monday.

According to the report, this is meant to help in “speedy identification of criminals and investigation of crimes.” The database is to contain fingerprints of convicts and undertrials alike.

base of fingerprints by collating records held by all states, the Economic Times reported on Monday.

According to the report, this is meant to help in “speedy identification of criminals and investigation of crimes.” The database is to contain fingerprints of convicts and undertrials alike.

The database is said to include fingerprint details of 28 lakh convicts as well as those arrested for criminal offences. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) is reported to have created a cloud system for the integration of the data from different states.

Presently, while prisons record an inmate’s fingerprints at the time of entry into a jail, this information is not centrally available to other entities.

However, critics of the scheme argue that the central database can be a violation of an undertrial’s rights.

“There is a possibility of misuse of such data by authorities, and creating a database like this can lead to prisoners unwillingly giving evidence against themselves in criminal cases,” senior lawyer Mihir Desai said.

Desai had earlier argued on behalf of a petition that had questioned the lack of safeguards in the UID scheme.

“Particularly in the case of undertrial prisoners, such a database can constitute a violation of their legal rights and privacy. This can run contrary to the principle of a person being considered innocent until proven guilty and can lead to the police framing persons who have been arrested earlier in cases where they are not otherwise able to find evidence,” Vijay Raghavan, professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences’ Centre for Criminology and Justice, said.

In September last year, PM Modi had asked the home ministry and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to ensure enrolment of prisoners across the country.

A Times of India report had quoted a government source as saying that the initiative was meant to ensure that prisoners and their families are not denied their rights and entitlements under welfare schemes.

Days later, a home ministry communication was issued saying that local UIDAI authorities should be approached for initiating the enrolment drive in prisons. While claiming that the enrolment would be voluntary, the communication also stated: “Moreover, the data so collected by the UIDAI is not meant for use by the correctional home and is only for the provision of an Aadhaar card to enable the re-integration of the UTP (undertrial prisoner) or convict on release.”