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    Custodial Deaths in India -A Hidden Story Behind Bars

    This article is written by Srikamal Gangarupam. He is a Law student and Content Writer Intern in Legal Thirst.

    Introduction

    The term custodial deaths refer to the “Death of a person during the investigation done by police or other authorities”; Section 176(1A) CRPC and section 304 of IPC deals with custodial death.

    Nowadays in India, the number of custodial deaths is increasing rapidly day by day, and police officers are escaping from charges by putting all the allegations and blame on victims due to Major political influence and caste and class power. The politically or socially vulnerable people are left out with no justice.

    Due to the lack of proper provisions for prisoners’ protection; the hike of custodial deaths is high in India. Let’s move forward towards statutory provisions.

    Statistical report of custodial crimes in India

    • According to the report by the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau). The Data between the following years in 2001 and 2018; only 26 policemen were convicted of an offense under custodial violence despite 1,727  deaths being recorded in India.
    • According to the recent report by the NHRC 151 custodial deaths were recorded in India in the year 2021.
    • According to these statistics and reports; it is evident that India stood among the nations which have a high custodial crime rate.
    • In the case, P Jayaraj and Bennicks  2020 supreme court which sparked Rage across the state and nation of custodial death of father and son due to alleged torture of policemen in which two policemen were suspended but no charges of murder even two FIRS are registered.

    In many other similar cases, policemen are escaped with minor charges, and victims’ families suffer and wait for justice for the victim.

    Suicide is one of the biggest reasons for the cause of custodial death to avoid further torture and hurt.

    Prevention of Torture Bill – The Forgotten Law

    The prevention of Torture bill was introduced in the parliament in the year 2010 But it was not passed in the Rajyasabha it proposed amendments to the bill; and it was kept lapsing due to the dissolution of Loksabha continuously.

    • But the bill raised the fear of police power to discharge his responsibilities with out fear of prosecution and persecution.
    • Also, the main problem is, that even if the bill will be passed. It will come into conflict with the present procedural laws IPC, CRPC, EVIDENCE ACT; and thwse laws are not easy to amend .
    • So amending the procedural laws can help for the bill to come into existence.

    Statutory/constitutional provisions for persons in custody

    • Article 20(3)-provides protection against self incrimination and gives the accused the right to maintain silence and not to disclose his defence before trial.
    • Article 21-provides that nobody can be deprived of his life and liberty without following the procedure prescribed by law .custodial violence violates this .
    • Article 22 (1) &(2) – provide for protection against arrest and detention in certain cases it prohibits detention of any person in custody without being informed the grounds for his arrest nor shall be denied right to consult and to be defended by legal practitioner of his choice.

    And also sections 24 to 27 of the Indian evidence act and sections 46(3) and 48 and section 54, section 176, and section 358 related to custodial death.

    There is much more need for amending these sections to decrease custodial deaths.

    George Floyd case

    • The death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Blackman, sparked outrage in May 2020; after a video showing officer holding his knees on neck as he gasped for breath which was circulated online.
    • After a heavy protest as a result of protest US Congress has decided to pass a police reform bill.
    • This bill is to maintain a National Database which will register all police misconducts. But bill was unable to pass in the Congress.

    In India, we should need a Police misconduct registry in which complaints and misconducts of policemen should be registered; and it will help the victims for speedy justice; prevent them from custodial violence.

    CCTV SURVEILLANCE IN POLICE STATION – TO KNOW THE HIDDEN STORY

    In the case PARAMVIR SINGH SAINI vs BALJIT SINGH AND ORS it mandated the CCTV cameras installations in the police station.

    But Authorities failed to install it in a full-fledged manner it remained as the order in the books.

    • SHO and other authorities in the police station should be Made responsible for Violating the order of Mandatory installation of CC cameras.
    • It will help in further investigation when custodial death occurs and liability of policemen in question.

    Measures to be taken in India to decrease the Custodial Crimes

    Due to the lack of proper provisions for prisoners; There is no protection or hope for them that they will be in safe hands until the investigation is done by the police.

    • Due to power of investigation and power to collect evidence for the police there is chance of manipulation of evidence and permanently bury the truth .
    • So, separate Anti- Torture bill is need of the hour for country like India where custodial crimes are high in number
    • CCTV cameras should be installed in every lockup; and the same should be monitored by surveillance team all the day immediate action should be taken; if they feel any difference in prisoner’s behaviour or violence by the policemen.
    • Prisoner’s should be educated with their available rights under constitutional and statutory provisions which are against to custodial violence.
    • Police should be friendly police and they have the major part in criminal justice; so, custodial violence should be stopped and instead help the courts to reveal the truth.
    • Custodial deaths should not be remained as Unhidden story instead through CCTV surveillance and continuous monitoring by high officials will reveal the hidden truth also decrease the custodial deaths.

    Conclusion

    As India stood among one of the nations which have a high custodial crime rate, there is a need for immediate and permanent measures to reduce the custodial deaths; continuous surveillance in lockups and police stations and frequent visits by the higher officials will make the problems of prisoners come into notice.

    As police are the key to protecting society and law and order if they go beyond the law and become ‘Slayers’ instead of ‘Saviors’; they will become a big threat to society and criminal justice.

    So, The pending Anti- Torture bill should be passed and a team should be set up to record the grievances of prisoners frequently.

    So, As India stood among the nation’s which have high custodial crime rate it should come down with all the necessary and permanent measures which eradicate this serious problem.

    References

    1. https://nhrc.nic.in/
    2. https://epaper.thehindu.com
    3. https://blog.ipleaders.in/
    4. www.nytimes.com/2020   

    Disclaimer: The opinions and views in the articles and research papers published on this website; are personal and independent opinions of the author. The website is not responsible for them.

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