What is Custodial Violence?
The term custodial violence includes physical and mental torture inflicted upon a person in police custody. It is a crime against humanity and a violation of human rights. It includes death, rape and torture.
Types of Custodial Violence:
- Physiological Violence: It includes mental torture by means of depriving him/her of basic needs such as food,sleep. It also includes threats and humiliations to break the confidence and morale of the victim.
- Physical Violence: In its ambit methods are employed to wreak physical assault on the victim.
- Sexual Violence: Sexual violence is employed through rape/sodomy and is generally directed towards social and psychological harassment of the victims.
Why in News?
The alleged torture and killing of a father and son, in custody in Tamil Nadu points to a broken criminal justice system, and highlights the need for police reforms .
Constitutional Provisions regarding the safeguard for Custodial Violence :
(i) convicted of any offense except for violation of a law in force at the time of the
commission of the act, nor
(ii) subjected to a penalty greater than that prescribed by the law in force at the time of the commission of the act.
Supreme Court Judgements on Custodial Violence
- The Supreme Court declared that any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment would be offensive to human dignity and constitute an inroad into this right to life.
- D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal – Under this case, the Supreme court of India observed that death in police custody that using torture to impermissible and offensive to Article 21.
- Munshi Singh Gautam and others v. the State of MP – It ruled that the dehumanising torture, assault in alarming proportions raise serious questions about the credibility of the rule of law and administration of the criminal justice system.
- Prakash Singh v. Union of India, 2006 – It ruled a slew of reforms to be undertaken for overhauling of the Police system. Among other reforms, it ruled that every State should have a Police Complaints Authority where any citizen can lodge a complaint against policemen for any act of misdemeanour.
What is the need of Reforms?
- Between 2001 and 2018, 1,727 persons died in police custody. This includes both persons on police/ judicial remand and those just arrested and not produced before court. Only 26 policemen were convicted in this period for such deaths.
- Only 4.3% of the 70 deaths in 2018 were attributed to “injuries during custody due to physical assault by police”. The reasons recorded for the other deaths included suicide and death in hospitals during treatment.
- Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra recorded zero convictions despite recording more than 100 custodial deaths in the period.
- Apart from custodial deaths, more than 2,000 human rights violation cases were recorded against the police during the same period.
Reforms needed in Police System:
- Adoption of an effective mechanism for police will enable the police supervisory structures to reduce torture.
- Police reforms to include ethical Policing.
- Improvisation in recruitment process, Training and sensitisation of Police forces.
- Overhauling of the Criminal Justice System.
- Proper interrogation techniques coupled with use of scientific methods
- Implementation in letter and spirit of SC judicial ruling in Prakash Singh case.
- Judicial inquiry followed by exemplary punishment to the policemen who are found responsible for custodial deaths.
Other Reforms :
Ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture which mandates a systematic review of colonial rules, methods, practices and arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons ubjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment.
It will also mean that exclusive mechanisms of redress and compensation will be set up for the victim besides institutions such as the Board of Visitors.
- Capacity building of Prisons to ensure humane conditions and securing dignity of inmates.
- Adopting Novel concepts like Open prison
- Fixing Accountability by reporting of deaths to NHRC within 24 hours.