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Accused Cannot Be Compelled to Share Passwords for Seized Devices, Says Delhi Court in CBI Corruption Case

Even as the order protects against self-incrimination, that may happen through the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022.

The accused in a Central Bureau of India (CBI) investigation cannot be compelled to provide the passwords for their electronic devices seized during an investigation, ruled a Special Judge Bench of a Delhi District Court on October 29th, as reported by The Wire. Obtaining this information without the accused's consent amounts to a violation of their right against self-incrimination, held under Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India, noted Justice Naresh Kumar Laka's Order. The Bench was hearing a petition filed by the CBI to access the password and user ID of a computer seized during a corruption investigation. The accused is also protected by Section 161(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which states persons are not bound to truly answer queries that "have a tendency to expose him to a criminal charge or to a penalty or forfeiture", noted Justice Laka while dismissing the application. However, the Court noted that the accused can be directed to provide biometric information—including fingerprints, or facial and iris scans—to open an electronic device. “In view of [the] recent enactment of Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022 (..) this court is of the considered opinion that a different approach is required to be adopted for password and biometrics of the accused,” read the Order, as reported by The Wire. Why it matters: While the Order protects the fundamental right against self-incrimination, another route to threaten it is potentially opened by the controversial Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022. This can impact the rights of the accused…

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