“The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) even gives us the right to kill. Fingerprint is not that big an issue,” said Mohammed Abdul Rasheed, ACP of Falaknuma police station. Police in Falaknuma, in Hyderabad, are asking for the facial data and fingerprints of people who they think might be potential criminals. MediaNama spoke to Rasheed and Syed Rafeeq, Additional DCP, South Zone, Hyderabad, to understand the provision under which the police is allowed to ask for people’s fingerprints.

Isn’t it illegal to ask people to give you their biometric data? “How would you catch a criminal? A suspect, a criminal, is roaming around at 2 am in the night. Normal people don’t roam around at that time,” Rasheed said.

“Asking for someone’s fingerprints is just like asking for their name,” said Rasheed.

How does the police think someone might be a suspect? Rafeeq said that the police, based on intuition, approaches people they think might be suspects. He also said that these are mostly young people. These “suspects” are then asked to verify if they are criminals or not by providing their fingerprints and facial data to the police.

Is consent sought? These people “usually say yes” and the police considers this as verbal consent, Rafeeq said. In case someone chooses not to give their biometrics, the police has to get permission from the Magistrate, he added.

However, Rasheed said that getting the Magistrate’s permission is not always a practical option. “If we catch someone at 3 am in the night, it isn’t practical to get the Magistrate’s orders,” Rasheed said.

What happens if a person’s data doesn’t match with the database? Rasheed said that the police isn’t collecting any data, it is only comparing people’s data against their database. “If a person’s fingerprints don’t match with our database, we let them go and don’t preserve their data,” he added.

What exactly is this database? “We have an app which has all the data of criminals,” Rasheed said. He was referring to the TSCOP app which includes fingerprint and facial data of several criminals. “Earlier, when we collected fingerprints from a crime scene, we had to compare that with our records in a forensic lab. But that takes a lot of time,” said Rasheed, stating that the TSCOP app has made it easier for the police to verify fingerprints. The TSCOP app was launched in January 2018, and a facial recognition system was added to it in August 2018.