Author : Monalisha Singh

Custodial death is very old concept which is prevalent in India since the British rule. Custodial death is an abrogation of human rights and a gross violation of human rights of the prisoners. This is completely against the law that prisoners are tortured physically in order to take the favourable statement.

The administration of Police is always castigated for the use of illegal means while doing the investigation. The authorities are legally obliged to provide proper amenities and healthy environment but the real scenario is completely different. It is not limited to India only but in many countries, it is still prevalent. Some of the countries are Burma, Bangladesh, Algeria, Argentina etc.

In one of the articles, ‘Custodial deaths refer to any kind of violence that is suffered by the convict while under the police or judicial custody’. As per the data of National Crime Records Bureau, between 2001 and 2018, the number of policemen who were convicted as a result of custodial violence was 26 but in reality, the number are quite high than the number showed by these reports. In states like Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Orisha and Uttar Pradesh, no police was accused for such deaths in the country. Besides this, there were 2000 human rights cases which were recorded in India from 2000 to 2018.

Reason for Custodial Deaths                                                   

Absence of strong legislation:- There is no law as anti torture legislation which can regulate such custodial violence. Many states totally disagree with the fact that custodial violence is prevalent in their states. And this defence prevents the enactment from happening despite the visibility of the violence.

Institutional Challenge- The prison system and the whole administration regulating the prison is not transparent. No access to prison is permitted and whoever wants to does it need to deposit Rs. 1 Lakh in the name of the superintendent of the concerned jail before entry. It is also due to lack in the prison reforms that give rise to institutional failure in preventing custodial violence in India.

Excessive Force- There is an excessive use of violence for controlling and targeting a certain sections of society which give rise to such things in order to promote and propagate any ideology. India signed the United Nations against Torture in 1997 but the ratification will bind India to bring laws in the country to reduce custodial violence in India.Protection from torture is a fundamental right enshrined under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Indian constitution.The right to counsel is also a fundamental right under Article 22(1) of the India constitution.

Section 41 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was amended in 2009 to include safeguards under 41A, 41B, 41C and 41D, so that arrests and detentions for interrogation have reasonable grounds and documented procedures, arrests are made transparent to family, friends and public, and there is protection through legal representation.

Way forward:

Rather than minimise, perhaps it is time to consider sanctions at a larger scale and impose monetary penalties at the district level, to drive home the message that the erring actions of 1 officer must be seen as a failure of the force itself.

Finally, constitutional courts could strike an inspired move by reorienting their guidelines to try and change the practices of magistrates, over whom they exercise powers of superintendence, as opposed to other non-judicial actors.

United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT):

The UNCAT is a world human rights treaty, under the review of the UN and was adopted in 1984. It aims to stop torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment round the world.

The convention requires states to require effective measures to stop torture in any territory under their jurisdiction and forbids states to move people to any country where there’s reason to believe they will be tortured.

Since the convention’s entry into force, absolutely the prohibition against torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment has become accepted as a principle of customary law of nations .


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