Remember the Google Form that the Delhi Police had circulated asking Delhi’s residents from North-Eastern States, Darjeeling and Ladakh to fill in their personal information, such as their name, address, community/tribe name, occupation etc., all in the name of their safety and security? We wrote to the Delhi Police Commissioner on August 14, 2023 and, according to their RTI response, all the data collected by the Delhi Police was deleted on August 18!
Why should you care?
While the importance of ensuring safety and security of all residents is paramount, any measure implemented for purposes of law and order by law enforcement agencies must safeguard citizens’ rights and should adhere to Constitutional values at its core. This measure was prone to misuse, and could have led to data leaks or surveillance.
Delhi Police confirms that all collected data is deleted
While the Delhi Police did not respond to our representation pointing out issues and concerns with the Google Form and the data collection exercise, their RTI response to us confirms that after we wrote to the Police Commissioner, the Google Form was closed and the data collected under the form was deleted on August 18, 2023.
We tried to access the Google Form link, and it has indeed been closed.
The measures raised constitutional concerns
In August, we found out, from news reports, that the Special Police Unit for North-Eastern Region (“SPUNER”), which operates under the Delhi Police, initiated a data collection exercise, which involves collecting personal data from residents in Delhi hailing from the Northeastern states, Darjeeling and Ladakh through a Google Form. On August 14, 2023, we wrote to the Delhi Police Commissioner raising concerns about this measure.
We highlighted that this exercise raises questions about its necessity, motivation, and effectiveness. It is critical to understand the nexus between the data collected and the objectives that this exercise is attempting to achieve, and whether the former facilitates the latter.
More importantly, we noted that as it involves vulnerable communities and disproportionate collection of their personal data, this exercise indicates a prima facie violation of Constitutional rights, including but not limited to Article 14 (right to equality), Article 15 (right against discrimination), Article 19(1)(d) (right to freedom of movement), and Article 21 (right to privacy). In Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court has recognized the right to privacy as a fundamental right enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution, and has directed that any action encroaching upon the privacy of an individual must be evaluated through the touchstone of legality, necessity and proportionality. On the face of it, this data collection exercise seems to fall foul of all three prongs of proportionality.
Lastly, we highlighted that there are concerns regarding what might happen if the information contained within this database leaks or falls into the wrong hands, and the varied harms to the communities concerned that can ensue, including but not limited to, targeted harassment, misrepresentation and identity frauds, stigmatization and margination, profiling, etc.
We are immensely grateful to the Delhi Police and to the Police Commissioner, Delhi for understanding our concerns and taking appropriate and immediate action. This will be instrumental in instilling public trust and confidence in law enforcement.
- Previous Blogpost dated August 14, 2023 titled “Delhi Police is Collecting Data from Persons in Delhi Hailing from NE States, Ladakh & Darjeeling. We wrote to the Delhi Police Commissioner Raising Our Concerns.” (link)
- Copy of IFF’s Representation dated August 14, 2023, to the Police Commissioner of Delhi [link]
- RTI Application dated August 14, 2023 (link)
- RTI response by the Delhi Police dated September 25, 2023 (link)