Interoperable Criminal Justice System

GS 2Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency and Accountability, E-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

Source : The Indian Express dated 28/05/2021

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/the-dangers-of-a-centralised-database-for-justice-system-7333252/

Context

The Supreme Court’s e-committee, headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud, is tasked with integrating digital technologies in courts to enhance judicial productivity and efficiency.
In the third phase of this project, the expert sub-committee has published a draft document to articulate its vision to put in place an Interoperable Criminal Justice System.(ICJS)

Background

  • Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) is a common platform for information exchange and analytics of all the pillars of the criminal justice system comprising of Police, Forensics, Prosecution, Courts& Prisons.
  • Invested under the CCTNS project of the MHA, the ICJS enables a nation wide search on police, prisons & courts databases across all States/ UTs in the country.

Why is ICJS needed?

  • Will reduce the Judicial Backlog
    • As per the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), in 2018, 2.93 crore cases are pending in the subordinate courts, 49 lakhs cases in High Courts and 57,987 cases in Supreme Court respectively.
    • As per information provided to the ministry of law and justice, around one-third of the cases pending at the Supreme Court have been pending for over five years.
    • ICJS will reduce errors and time taken in sharing of necessary information between the pillars, which often lead to larger challenges like longer duration of trials, poorer convictions, transit losses of documents etc.
  • Will replace the existing need-based physical exchange of information.
    • ICJS will act as a facilitator to exchange data across the pillars
  • Usable analytics products like the National Database on Sexual Offenders (NDSO) can be used to identify & track repeat and habitual sexual offenders.
  • Enable National level crime analytics to be published at increased frequency, which will help the policy makers as well as lawmakers in taking appropriate and timely action.
  • Enable pan-India criminal/accused name search in the regional language for improved inter-state tracking of criminal movement.
ODISHA’S EXPERIENCE OF ICJS – A TRUE GAME CHANGER
  • Started implementing ICJS in April 2019.
  • From 2005, 11.89 lakh FIRs were registered in Odisha- these cases were linked to their corresponding court cases and officers can know the current status of the cases using CCTNS.
  • Using the mobile App, ‘Arakhi’ (meaning police), our officers are able to generate a single information docket.
  • The State Forensic Science Laboratory (SFSL) is now fully integrated with CCTNS.

What is CCTNS?

  • Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) is a Mission Mode project under the National e-Governance Plan for creating a single repository of crime and criminal data for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing at the Police Station level. 
  • Out of total 16,098 police stations in the country, the CCTNS software is being implemented in over 95 per cent of police stations and connectivity is available at 97per cent police stations. 93 per cent police stations are entering 100 percent FIRs through CCTNS.
  • (CCTNS) also created facilities and mechanism to provide public services like registration of online complaints, ascertaining the status of case registered at the police station, verification of persons etc.
  • Its aims to
    • Provide Citizen Centric Police Services via a web portal
    • Pan India search on National database of Crime & Criminal records
    • Crime and Criminal reports at State and Center
    • Computerization of Police Processes

Challenges on implementing ICJS

  • May affect  the rights and dignities of marginalised individuals 
    • Habitual offenders” (HOs)–  communities which had been criminalised by the British through the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871. 
    • The caste system offered colonial authorities the rationale to identify HOs.
    • ICJS would essentially feed and sustain the myth of criminality of a “habitual offender”.
  • Names and details of first-time offenders and juveniles are included in HO registers
    • The inclusion of juveniles contravenes the principle of fresh start espoused in the Juvenile Justice Act. 
  • The risks of centralised, interoperable and permanent digital databases on privacy and liberties of individuals.
    • The Supreme Court described privacy and its importance in the landmark decision of K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India in 2017 that – Right to Privacy is a fundamental and inalienable right and attaches to the person covering all information about that person and the choices that he/ she makes.
    • The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.

Way forward

  • Expedite the passage of the  Personal Data Protection Bill,2019
    • seeks to provide for protection of personal data of individuals, create a framework for processing such personal data, and establishes a Data Protection Authority for the purpose
  • Deliberate on having a ‘Right to be forgotten’
    • The ‘right to be forgotten’ is the right to have publicly available personal information removed from the internet, search, databases, websites or any other public platforms, once the personal information in question is no longer necessary, or relevant.
    • The right to be forgotten has been recognised as a statutory right in the European Union under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and has been upheld by a number of courts in the United Kingdom, and in Europe.
    • In India, there is no law that specifically provides for the right to be forgotten. However, the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 recognised this right
Case studies on successful application of CCTNS/ICJS
  • CCTNS and the ranking of the best Police Stations of India
    • The timely & regular entry of data into the CCTNS was a critical component in the selection of Police Stations for onground survey.
    • Introduced a new level of objectivity and analysis into the process of ranking
  • SUCCESS IN USING CCTNS IN ANTECEDENT VERIFICATIONS(for passports)
    • Tamil Nadu Police used CCTNS portal (Accused Name Search) and discovered criminal backgrounds of 80 applicants
    • 3 of the 80 were found to be involved in murder cases, 39 in hurt cases, 5 in theft cases and 33 in petty offences ranging from road accidents to cheating or rioting.

Conclusion

No country in this world has developed without creating a robust criminal justice system. Today, reforms in governance are what are needed to fulfill the aspirations of our people, not budgetary provisions. ICJS, the cornerstone in justice delivery must be implemented.
At the same time, we should ensure that  efficiency and digitisation do not recede the rights and dignities of marginalised individuals who are often the subjects of our criminal justice system.

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