CUSTODIAL VIOLENCE IN INDIA: PART 1

INTRODUCTION:

          The term custodial violence is made up of two terms: custody and violence. Hence, to understand this concept, it is necessary to understand these terms. Cambridge dictionary defines custody as: “the legal right or duty to take care of someone or something…”. Violence, as defined by Britannica, is “an act of physical force that causes or is intended to cause harm”. Hence, custodial violence means violence against a person who is either in police or judicial custody.

          Police Custody occurs when someone is arrested, or under other circumstances where the suspect submits to the authority of a police officer.[1] On the other hand, when the person is sent to jail or prison, it is called Judicial Custody.[2] Examples of custodial violence include torture, death, rape and others.

HISTORY OF CUSTODIAL VIOLENCE IN INDIA:

          Custodial violence is not something new in India. The National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) findings state that between 1993 and 2002, the number of custodial deaths reported by the state government to the NHRC have increased from 34 to 1307.[3] There has been a massive rise in the number of reports of custodial violence.

          A report by Asian Centre for Human rights, quoting govt data, says between 1 April 2017 and 28 February 2018, there were 1,674 custodial deaths.[4]  Of these 1530 were in judicial custody and 144 were in police custody.[5]

Custodial death violates article 21 and article 22(1) of the Indian Constitution. While referring to custodial deaths, it is essential to refer to the 1996 case of D.K. Basu vs State of West Bengal.[6]  It was recognised that custodial death strikes a blow at the rule of law. There are several statutory and constitutional provisions to protect the life of people but there have been an innumerable cases of custodial death. It was termed as one of the ‘Worst Crimes in a Civilised Society to be governed by the Rule of Law.’

          Cases of custodial rape are also on the rise. A landmark case would be the case of Rameeza Bee, who was raped by three police officers in Hyderabad in 1978. [7]A recent case would be that of a dalit woman in Rajasthan who was brutally raped and tortured while in police custody. [8]

          Hence, we come to the conclusion that custodial violence has a long drawn history in India and is constantly on the rise.

CAUSES OF CUSTODIAL VIOLENCE:

          In India, several causes propel custodial violence. Specially in India, lack of proper hygiene and basic necessities, overcrowding and other causes can lead to deaths while in custody but there are other causes as well which lead to the same. Custodial rape, however, does not stem from any of these causes. It is a willful malicious act which is committed by the wrong doer.

NEGLIGENCE OF POLICE:

Very often, negligent acts of police can lead to custodial deaths. Prisoners hide certain poisons or knives with themselves and then commit suicide. Here, the police are to be blamed because they owed a duty of care to the prisoner. On September 5, 2019, a villager in Jammu and Kashmir committed suicide while in police custody.[9]

POLITICAL PRESSURE:

There have been cases where police are forced to kill a prisoner because of political pressure. Political parties exercise a lot of control over the police and can very often pressurize the police to indulge in torturing the accused which might lead to his/her death. Certain people can cause a lot of problems for politicians, which is why they manipulate the police to get rid of such people.

BURDEN OF CASES:

Nowadays, unsolved cases are at an all time high. [10]There is a lot of burden and pressure on the police to get the accused either convicted or acquitted. This leads to torturing the accused until a favourable response is elicited so that the case can be closed. This torture can often result in serious consequences including custodial death.

GREED FOR MONEY:

Many rich and powerful people pay off police to ensure that a particular person is convicted of the offense, even though he/she may be innocent. In such a case, there is a need for a false confession which can be elicited through torture. The result of this is custodial rape and violence.

PERSONAL BIASES:

          The personal biases of the police can influence who is being punished. In rural areas where the caste system still plays a major role in deciding the social status, generally Dalits and lower class people are punished because of the collective biases of the society, of which the police is a part.


[1] Kourosh Akhbari, “Police Custody” (Legal Match, 23 April 2018)< https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/police-custody-lawyers.html> accessed 8 October 2019.

[2] Manmeet Singh, “Custodial Violence in India”(Legal Services India.com) < http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1893/Custodial-Violence-in-India.html> accessed 8 October 2019.

[3] National Human Rights Commission, Annual Report 2001-2002 , Annexure 7, pp.360-61

[4] Sankalita Dey, “In 2017-18, there were 5 custodial deaths per day in India”, (The Print, 28 June 2018) < https://theprint.in/india/governance/in-2017-18-there-were-5-custodial-deaths-per-day-in-india-says-report/75654/> accessed 8 October 2019.

[5] Ibid.

[6] D.K. Basu vs State of West Bengal, [1996] 1 SCC 416.

[7] Himanshi Nagpal, “The Historical Journey of rape laws in India”,(Feminism in India, 22 June 2017) < https://feminisminindia.com/2017/06/22/historical-journey-rape-laws-india/> accessed 9 October 2019.

[8] Nishtha Gupta, “Nails plucked, threatened with electrocution, immolation: Rajasthan custodial rape victim recounts horror”(India Today, 17 July 2019)< https://www.indiatoday.in/crime/story/rajasthan-churu-custodial-rape-victim-sardarshahar-police-1570397-2019-07-17> accessed on 8 October 2019.

[9] Shahrukh, “Man allegedly commits suicide in police custody in J&k’s Kupwara”, (India Today, 5 September 2019) < https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/man-allegedly-commits-suicide-in-police-custody-kupwara-district-north-kashmir-1596021-2019-09-05 > accessed 8 October 2019.

[10] TNN, “Unsolved cases at an all time high”, (The Times Of India, 12 February 2017) < https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/unsolved-cases-at-all-time-high/articleshow/57102828.cms > accessed 8 October 2019. 

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