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    Punjab & Haryana HC Orders Location Sharing for Bail; Supreme Court Warns of Privacy Concerns in Similar Matter

    The Punjab and Haryana High Court while granting bail to a murder convict has directed him to “own and possess” a smartphone and share the number, as well as, his location with the local police, according to a report by LiveLaw.

    As per the May 20 order of the Court, Justice Deepak Sibal and Justice Deepak Manchanda stated:

    “…it is directed that while on bail the applicant-appellant shall own and possess a smart mobile phone which shall be kept on at all times; the phone shall always be with the applicant-appellant; he shall share the number of the phone as also his location with the SHO of the area where the applicant-appellant normally resides; he shall mark his attendance on the 1st of each month in the police station and that he shall also not leave the jurisdiction of the concerned police station without the prior permission of the SHO of such police station.”

    Is sharing location information a necessary bail condition?

    Earlier in May, the Supreme Court remarked that requiring a person to share their Google PIN with law enforcement officials, enabling them to track their live location, is not a bail condition. The top Court was examining whether such a bail condition infringes upon the individual’s right to privacy recognised under Article 21.

    Justice Abhay S Okay observed that while there have been two instances when the Court has asked the accused to share their live location, the same cannot be a condition for granting bail. The Court was hearing a plea filed by Frank Vitus, a Nigerian national accused in a drugs case, against specific bail conditions imposed by the Delhi High Court in 2022. The High Court had ordered the accused and a co-accused to drop a PIN on Google Maps and to make their location available to the investigation officer.

    Why does it matter?

    For law enforcement agencies like the police, location data of individuals—a type of metadata—involved in a case is valuable information and is often derived from other types of metadata, which plays a key role in establishing the path of investigation and connecting independent actors involved in a case. Indian police often rely on metadata like location information during the investigation stages of a matter to nab the culprit. Read more about how India’s police are using your metadata here.

    However, demanding that an individual out on bail should share location details consistently points towards constantly tracking the individual’s movements and indulging in preventive policing, which undermine people’s fundamental right to privacy, and freedom of movement.

    Requests to track an accused out on bail, sound alarm regarding growing surveillance tactics employed by law enforcement agencies, even if there might be, existing alternate methods to ensure that the accused is available in the jurisdiction as per the order. Courts need to examine the necessity of sharing location with the police and also whether the condition is proportionate to what the police are trying to achieve, in the spirit of the Court’s 2017 judgment that affirmed privacy as a fundamental right.

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    The post Punjab & Haryana HC Orders Location Sharing for Bail; Supreme Court Warns of Privacy Concerns in Similar Matter appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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