Custodial Deaths in INDIA – A Retroactive Study !

The number of deaths in custody is increasing every year. It is important to carry out research studies in this field. Deaths in police custody are often problematic, raising concern about police trust because of some custodial deaths due to failure of providing adequate treatment at the proper time, some deaths are due to complications of physical torture by police and some deaths remain questionable. Preventing torture in custody and ensuring strict compliance of its guidelines in custodial deaths is one of the important agenda on the National Health Report Commission NHRC‟s list. Major reasons behind custodial deaths were mainly unawareness and carelessness on the part of custodial authorities.

What is NHRC?

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India is a Statutory public body inaugurated on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993. It is responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as "Rights Relating to Life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India”.

Motto of the Article:

The main concern of this study is to demonstrate the pattern of custodial deaths that happened in India and also to bring awareness among law enforcement agencies so that proper care of the person in custody can be taken. These articles also provide some of the suggestive methods to reduce the number of custodial deaths happening in India.

Methods of torments given by police:

I have sorted out some of the torments given by the police based upon the custodial death article in the year 2019.

  • Hammering iron nails in the body

  • Applying roller on legs and burning

  • Falanga wherein the soles of the feet are beaten

  • Stretching legs apart in opposite

  • Beating after hanging upside down with hands and legs tied,

  • Pressing fingernails with pliers

  • Beating with iron rods after the victim is suspended between two tables with hands and legs tied

  • Kicking the abdomen of a pregnant woman

Custodial death cases in 2019:

A total of 1,731 people died in Indian custody during 2019. It averages out to about 5 such death a day, according to a report published on 26th June 2020 by a rights organization. The 2019 Annual Report on torture said 1606 of the deaths in judicial custody and 125 in police custody occurred. Out of 125 deaths in police custody, Uttar Pradesh surmounted 14 deaths, followed by Tamil Nadu and Punjab with 11 deaths each and Bihar with 10 deaths. These details are given by the National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT). The total number of deaths in custody (89%) was reported only in the hospital.

The following pie charts will give a clear view about the pattern of deaths occurred in 2019,

1. According to Manner of Death:

2. According to Gender Distribution: 3. Custody wise Distribution of Cases: Listed below is the graphical details of custodial deaths in India from the year 2011 to 2019. The number of cases of custodial deaths is increasing year by year. Hence there should be some protective measures to reduce the custodial cases in India. Therefore I suggest some of the measures to reduce the number of deaths. Solutions for reducing Custodial Death: While it is true that not every case of death in custody would be avoidable, but the number of such death can be avoided by taking preventive measures. Within this analysis some of the steps are suggested as follows:

  1. The suspect should be checked for any medical illness as soon as he arrested. If found any medical treatment required, the suspect should be taken to the hospital immediately.

  2. CCTV must be installed inside the lock-ups which should be cautiously monitored

  3. Policemen with good patience level should be appointed for the detection branch

  4. All footages of investigation should be preserved

  5. Establishment of Human Rights court in all District Headquarters. These courts shall be mandated for speedy trial of custodial death cases in police custody beside others.

  6. Police Documents be made public to avoid confusion.

  7. The post-mortem of persons who died in police custody should be conducted by a panel of doctors appointed by the District magistrate.

Conclusion: In my study about custodial death, most of the deaths are under natural cause and this may occur due to old age, poor nutritional status, illness, etc. In many unnatural cases, the compensation delivered by the supreme court and high court are not favorable and given the impression that life can be put down with monetary compensation give rise to a sad note. Hence the court should give equal priority to punish the guilty police who took the victim life to the saddest part along with compensation to the affected family. Article by Selvadeepak S

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