India weighs scope of criminal records to be shared with the U.K.

India weighs scope of criminal records to be shared with the U.K.

Sharing biometrics of accused or convicted persons with foreign countries may have legal ramifications

India is deliberating the scope of criminal records to be shared with the United Kingdom, four years after a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the two countries. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is examining the format under which criminal records could be exchanged, a senior government official said.

U.K Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will visit India this coming week, ahead of a likely visit by U.K Prime Minister Boris Johnson soon.

The information exchange, according to the MoU signed in January 2018 would include sharing criminal records information, fingerprints, and intelligence. The MHA has asked law enforcement agencies and State Police for their views, a senor government official said.

An MHA spokesperson did not comment on the information to be shared with the U.K authorities.

Sharing biometrics of accused or convicted persons with foreign countries may have legal ramifications as it could be challenged on grounds of breach of privacy.

The Ministry is examining if the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), India’s centralised online database of first information reports (FIR), charge-sheets and investigation reports, could be used to cull out the required details.

The CCTNS is a platform that links around 16,000 police stations across the country. All State police are mandated to file FIRs in the CCTNS module.

The U.K is also part of the the Five Eyes alliance, an intelligence-sharing arrangement between the U.S.A., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

An official said that India and the U.K. are in discussions to strengthen cooperation through the Home Affairs Dialogue and Roadmap 2030. The Dialogue covers issues such as migration, law enforcement priorities and criminal justice cooperation, but that’s quite different to Five Eyes type of intelligence sharing, the official stated.

A press release by the U.K Home Office on January 14, 2018 said the criminal records exchange “will assist the police in protecting the public from known criminals, including sex offenders” and “will also allow the courts in both countries to access more information to support tougher sentencing decisions”.

In April 2018, during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the U.K., the final MoU on Co-operation and Exchange of Information for the Purposes of Combating International Criminality and Tackling Serious Organised Crime was signed. The MoU was to establish a mechanism for the exchange of criminal records, immigration records and intelligence.

A statement by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) had said that India and the U.K. already have an agreement signed in 1995, concerning the investigation and prosecution of crime and the tracing, restraint and confiscation of the proceeds and instruments of crime (including crimes involving currency transfers) and terrorist funds. “Both the countries desire to further strengthen cooperation in fighting international criminality and serious organized crime. The MoU will reinforce the collaboration in the field of security that will be mutually beneficial,” the statement said.

Earlier, in 2016, India had refused to join a U.S.-led global terror database, the Terrorist Screening Centre (TCS), in the face of objections from the intelligence agencies. The TCS has a database of 11,000 terror suspects.

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