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Custodial Deaths in India
Author: Thamanna Abdul Latheef
Once the Supreme Court has said, ‘custodial death is a crime and such incidents indicate the “apparent disdain” of the State to the life and liberty of prisoners’. Even now, the incidents of custodial death are reported and it’s a brazen truth. Surprisingly, no policeman was convicted for a prisoner's death in custody and India's police force attributes deaths in custody to illness, attempted escape, suicide and accidents.
According to the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, nearly 600 people died in police custody in India between 2010 and 2015. A large number of such deaths happen because of torture in custody. The report draws on "in-depth investigations" into 17 deaths in custody that occurred between 2009 and 2015, including more than 70 interviews with victims' family members, witnesses, justice experts and police officials.
In most of the cases, the police did not follow proper arrest procedures, making the suspect more vulnerable to abuse. The report says, the police officers investigating deaths in custody are more concerned about shielding their colleagues than bringing those responsible to justice. By law, every person taken into custody must be medically examined and produced before a magistrate within 24 hours.
‘If the fundamental right to life and liberty was to be given its true meaning, the Centre and the state governments must accept the reality and not proceed on the basis that prisoners could be treated as “chattel”, said the Supreme Court in light of the rising custodial deaths in India.
The government data has revealed that in 67 of 97 deaths in custody in 2015, the police either failed to produce the suspect before a magistrate within 24 hours or the suspect died within 24 hours of being arrested. The report also claims that the official investigations to examine wrongdoing rarely find police culpable, and the police also delay or resist filing complaints against implicated police officers. In a majority of the cases of custodial death, most of them go unreported.
Each time when a person dies in custody, it not only points out the basic violation of fundamental rights but also the collapse of law and order in the country. the recent incidents in Kerala, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh etc. are self-explanatory. The state government as well the central government should look into the matter as the citizens are denied justice every time when a law is violated; when that comes from the cops who are supposed to maintain law and order of the land, it is scary.