The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920

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The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 was enacted on 9 September 1920 to authorise the taking of measurement and photographs of convicts and any other such persons. This Act extends to whole of India except for territories comprised in Part B States before 1 November 1956.

Section 2 of the Act states about definitions for words like Measurements, Police Officer, Prescribed are explained. Measurements include finger-impressions and foot print impressions. Police Officer shall have the meaning of police officer in charge of the police station under Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 but not below the rank of Sub-Inspector.  Prescribed means the rules stated under the said Act.

Section 3 of the Act states about the measurements to be taken of the persons who are convicted of any crime is explained in detail. A person who is convicted of an offence which would subsequently render him/her liable to enhanced punishment or for any offence where rigorous imprisonment is the punishment given which is for one year or more and if such convict has been ordered to give security for convict’s good behavior then his/her measurements and photographs should be taken by police officer under the Act.

Any person who is a convict and he is convicted with rigorous imprisonment for a term of 1 year or more should allow the police officer for measurements to be taken under the Act as required is explained in Section 4 of the said Act.

Section 5 of the Act explains that the Magistrate has the power to order any convicted person’s measurement or photograph to be taken. Magistrate can order so if he thinks fit necessary for the purpose of the investigation or proceedings under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. Such person whose measurement or photograph has to be taken should attend at a time and place mentioned for the purpose of measurement and photographs as the case may be by any police officer. Such order can be given only be Magistrate of first class and such order cannot be given to the person unless he has been arrested in connection with such investigation. Magistrate has all the power for passing such order.

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Section 6 of the Act explains about resistance while taking the measurements. If any convicted person whose measurements or photographs has to be taken resists or refuses to allow for it then he can be forced for such purpose. Any resistance or refusal for taking measurements or photographs to be taken shall be considered an offence under Section 186 of Indian Penal Code.

Section 7 of the Act explains about destruction of the photos and measurement records. If any person who is not convicted of an offence punishable with rigorous imprisonment for 1 year or more and such person is released without trial or acquitted by any Court or discharged, whose measurements and photos are taken such records should be destroyed or given to the person. But unless Court or District Magistrate or Sub-Divisional Officer believes necessary for certain reason that such measurement or photos should be kept it cannot be done so.

Under Section 8 of the Act to carry out the provisions of this Act the State Government has the power to make rules. The rules that can be made in particular are with regard to restrictions on persons photos to be taken, particular place where photos and measurements are to be taken, the nature of measurements and photos, methods for class of measurement to be taken, dress code of the person while photos are taken, preserving or destruction and disposing of the records of measurements.

Section 9 of the Act explains that no person or authority under the said Act does any act or intends to do such act in good faith made under the rule can be sued or no proceedings can lie against such person. Some states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka have made certain amendments to this Act.

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by Sushma Javare