National Crime Records Bureau

The NCRB Director, Ish Kumar has requested Hansraj Ahir, Union Minister of State for Home to provide access to Aadhaar data to the police, reports PTI. He was speaking at the 19th All India Conference of Directors of Finger Prints Bureau in Hyderabad

Ahir also wants an “early intervention” by the Ministry in amending the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 to do away with the clause about one year rigorous imprisonment and enable “other modern biometrics such as iris, veins, signature and voice” to be captured. The NCRB has sent a proposal to the Centre to this effect.

The unconstitutional rampage of Aadhaar continues undisturbed. Even as the case is subjudice in the Supreme Court, we have a recommendation by no less than the Director of the National Crime Records Bureau to outright set aside the prohibition against compelling self-incrimination in Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India.

No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself

Police in India are increasingly compiling databases of citizens outside the purview of any laws or rules. Aadhaar numbers of arrested persons are already being recorded in many states without any legal backing. Individuals and even activists have been threatened by police over not having an Aadhaar.

What Kumar is asking for is “Limited access to Aadhaar data” – searching the Aadhaar database for fingerprint matches to solve crimes.

If this happens, it will, of course, prove many more government claims to be lies:

  • That they will not provide Aadhaar data and particularly biometrics to anyone.
  • Lack of consent will not prevent the UIDAI from sharing data of Aadhaar holders.
  • Biometrics are never shared.

This is a good time to remember that there are no notifications empowering police to record Aadhaar details of citizens, even though the police are profiling people by their Aadhaar numbers.

What Kumar is recommending is the discarding of rights of citizens as a replacement to efficient working of the state. While Aadhaar exists, this will remain a threat to the constitutional rights of citizens at the hands of police – whether they can access the database or not, with citizens being forced to provide Aadhaar details, regardless.

But beyond the issue of constitutionality, legality and plain ethics, on a technical level, matches found in such a manner may not be accurate. With high failure rates even with carefully scanned fingerprints checked against provided Aadhaar number, the chances of fingerprints lifted from crime scenes resulting in viable matches are low. India has very limited forensic capabilities and contamination of crime scenes can complicate such results. Partial fingerprint matches can wrongfully implicate innocent citizens.

Indian law enforcement currently lacks adequate staff and technical resources. Discarding the fundamental rights of citizens in favor of quick resolution of cases my seem like a viable, if unethical solution, but the resources spent on making it happen, being spent on improving the staffing and equipment are likely to deliver better results in a legal, constitutional and ethical manner.

Vidyut is a commentator on socio-political issues with a keen understanding of tech and policy. She has been observing and commenting on Aadhaar since 2010 from a perspective of human rights, democracy and technological robustness.

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