IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


14th February, 2023 POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

Copyright infringement not intended

In News

  • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Rajya Sabha about the Custodial deaths.


  • The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs shared the details of the custodial deaths reported between 1st April 2017 and 31st March 2022 in all states and Union Territories across India.
  • The Minister highlighted that a total of 146 cases of death in police custody were reported during 2017-2018,
    • 136 in 2018-2019,
    • 112 in 2019-2021,
    • 100 in 2020-2021,
    • 175 in 2021-2022.
  • The highest number of custodial deaths (80) has been reported in Gujarat, followed by Maharashtra (76), Uttar Pradesh (41), Tamil Nadu (40) and Bihar (38).
  • The Minister said that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended monetary relief in 201 cases, and disciplinary action in one case.

About Custodial deaths:

  • Custodial torture ranging from an assault of various types to death by the police for extortion of confessions and imputation of evidence is not uncommon.
    • Such a method of investigation and detection of a crime, in the backdrop of expanding the idea of ‘humane’ administration of criminal justice, not only disregard the human rights of an individual and thereby undermines his dignity but also exposes him to unwarranted violence and torture by those who are expected to ‘protect’ him.
  • Since the enactment of Section 176(1A) in 2005, the National Human Rights Commission has recorded 24,043 custodial deaths/rapes between 2005-2006 and 2018-2019.
  • National Crimes Records Bureau’s annual reports from 2005 to 2017 state that judicial inquiry was not conducted in about 80% of the cases recorded by it.
  • Concerning 476 cases of “death or disappearance of persons remanded in police custody by the court,” 266 cases were registered and 54 police officers were charge-sheeted, but not a single police officer was convicted.
  • Out of the 827 cases of death or disappearance of persons in police custody without court remand, a judicial inquiry was ordered only in 166 cases — 20% of the total cases.

Reasons behind custodial death:

  • Non-accountability of the Police. In 2015, for instance, the police registered cases against fellow police officers in only 33 of the 97 custodial deaths. These deaths were labelled as suicide or natural deaths.
  • There is a lack of transparency and poor communication with the family of the person.
  • The poor socio-economic background of the accused also helps police to use their torture mechanism as they are unaware of the law.
  • Custodial deaths are also the result of the accused not able to fulfil the demands of local police.
  • Overcrowding of jails leads to higher no of deaths due to space crunch and lack of infrastructure.
  • Medical checkups are not done regularly.
  • No scientific investigation methods are followed by police. They still indulge in brute force methods of interrogation.
  • Our police force is understaffed and overburdened. Continuous pressure to solve the crime on a fast basis exhorts them to employ such methods.
  • Overcrowding of jails: due to the high no of under trials around 68% of the total as highlighted by recent prisons statistics India (NCRB)

Constitutional Provisions against Custodial death:

  • Article 21(1) provides that no person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed as soon as possible of the ground for such arrest.
  • Article 22(2) provides that every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours of such arrest.
  • Article 20 ensures that the administration of the criminal justice system should not be so designed or implemented as to destroy the deeper and moral values of justice itself.

Court Judgement on Custodial death:

  • K. Basu v. State of West Bengal:
    • The ubiquity of torture and third-degree methods in police investigations lamented the ‘growing incidence of torture and deaths in police custody.
    • A crime suspect must be interrogated – indeed subjected to sustained and scientific interrogation determined under the provisions of law.
    • He can’t however be tortured or subjected to third-degree methods or eliminated with a view to eliciting information, extracting a confession or deriving knowledge about his accomplices, weapons etc.
    • The burden of explaining a custodial death lay on the police rather than the victim.
    • The court granted compensation on a constitutional basis in public law for the infringement of fundamental rights.
    • Realizing the essential connection between the provisions of Articles 22(1) and 22(2), the courts have held that the provision of clauses (1) and (2) of Article 22 is mandatory.
  • Other Verdicts:
    • A punishment which has an element of torture is unconstitutional.
    • Prison restrictions amounting to torture, pressure or infliction and going beyond what the court order authorizes are unconstitutional.
    • An under-trial or convicted prisoner cannot be subjected to physical or mental restraint.

Measures to prevent Custodial death

  • Under the 7th Schedule of the Indian constitution Police and public order are State subjects. It is primarily the responsibility of the state government concerned to ensure the protection of human rights.
    • However, the Central Government issues advisories from time to time and also has enacted the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHR), 1993, which s establishment of the NHRC and State Human Rights Commissions to look into alleged human rights violations by public servants.
  • Ensuring the presence of a lawyer through contact with the nearest legal aid committee as soon as a person is taken into custody.
  • The National Legal Services Authority should design processes that ensure lawyers are either stationed at police stations on a rotational basis or available on call.
  • Ensuring Accountability of Police - any such crime must be fast-tracked within a specified period through an Independent investigation Agency.
  • Inculcation of the scientific method of investigation in the Police force and curtailing the practice of third-degree torture.
  • Strict Implementation of DK Basu case guidelines as well as NHRC guidelines by States.
  • Behavioural change in the Police force through training and awareness campaigns.
  • Encouraging civil societies, Human Rights NGOs, NHRC & SHRCs to play an active role in creating awareness and accountability of Police.
  • Implementation of SC’s recent directive to publish FIRs online within 24 hours.
  • Video conferencing through prisons.
  • The passing of the Prevention of Torture Bill.

Must Read: https://www.iasgyan.in/blogs/police-reforms-in-india-4