Why in News?
Thiseditorial highlights the dangers of a centralised database for justice system
Syllabus—GS2: Issues related to Criminal Justice System
- A sobering reality of crime is that it does not respect jurisdictional boundaries. And unfortunately, many police agencies utilize databases that only contain information compiled by their own organization.
- As a result, a crime series that affects several towns within a few miles of each other may go undetected because there is no collective awareness of a regional crime problem.
- Conversely, when agencies within a region use a shared system for their records, efficiency is improved and crimefighting capabilities are enhanced. In effect, a commonsense approach to using technology becomes an effective force multiplier.
- Recently SC’s e-committee headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud published a draft document digitizing the criminal justice system.
- The main aim is to integrate digital technologies in courts to enhance judicial efficiency.
- The vision is to put in place an interoperable digital architecture that facilitates easy data-sharing among all pillars of the criminal justice system.
About Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS): –
- The Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS), launched in 2019, is set to be fully operational, and will replace the existing need-based physical exchange of information.
- It will integrate existing centralised data systems such as the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS), e-prisons and e-courts, promising “seamless exchange of live data” among these branches.
- Critics have raised privacy concerns, given the absence of data protection laws, and questioned the implications of the data being housed in the home ministry for judicial independence.
- The main concern is privacy due to the absence of data protection laws in India.
- There is also the concern of implications of the data being housed in the home ministry for judicial independence.
- The major issue is of a neglected danger that this seamless exchange likely to whitewash the biased & illegal process of data creation.
- In other words, it can possibly hamper the objectivity & neutrality of technology.
- It will have a huge impact on certain tribes classified as Habitual Offenders.
Habitual Offenders & Central Database:
- Habitual offenders are historically maintained a register of persons belongs to certain communities like VimuktaJanjatis that have been criminalized by the British through the Criminal Tribe Act 1871.
- For colonial rulers, Caste System offered the rationale to identify & branding of communities as HOs that resulted in extensive surveillance & intrusive policing.
- This has been sustained post-independence through state laws allowing the police to maintain records of lives & movements of the communities.
- The gravest injustice of being labeled as a HO is that it entirely hinges on police suspicion & discretion that are based on caste prejudices.
- The register also includes juveniles that contravene the principles enshrined in the Juvenile Justice Act.
- The creation of permanent digital databases based on biased offline databases with no oversight that utilizes ambiguous & outdated provisions is grave injustice & illegal.
- For years, the Hos registers were hidden inside specific police stations & shred with other stations when required.
- With CCTNS, police used digitized data for crime & criminal mapping & predictive policing.
- The existence of HO registers is a ready refuge for the police both while looking for a person to pin a crime on as well as manufacturing one.
Challenges ahead: –
- Before the interoperable system, the accused has given a right to challenge the correctness of the record, but now the interoperable system creates a potential for the police information to be used to the detriment of accused persons without their knowledge.
- The e-committee’s vision to integrate all existing data systems to make ICJS one expansive centralized system would be feed with biased data of habitual offenders.
- Even if caste-informed biases of data are taken away, we still need to consider the risks of centralized, interoperable & permanent digital databases on privacy & individual liberties.
- Efficiency & Digitization cannot recede the rights & dignities of marginalized individuals who are often the subjects of the Indian criminal justice system.
Discuss the privacy concerns raised over the judicial independencegiven the absence of data protection laws. Illustrate how the interoperable digital architecture will facilitate “easy” data-sharing among all pillars of the criminal justice system — the police, prosecutors, prisons and courts.