The definition of Custodial Death or custodial violence has not been prescribed by any law. The word ‘custody’ implies guardianship and protective care. It is important to note that even though custody implies confinement of a person, it does not entail to impose evil manifestation during the same. In Merriam Webster’s dictionary the word ‘custody’ has been defined as immediate charge and control (as over a ward or a suspect) exercised by a person or an authority. Several provisions under several enactments such as Sections 330, 331 & 348 of IPC; Sections 25 & 26 of the Indian Evidence Act; Section 76 of CrPC and Section 29 of the Police Act, 1861 have been introduced to protect detenues from the torture inflicted by policemen during custody.
As per the data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau in the year 2013, 115 custodial deaths were recorded across the country followed by 93 in 2014 and 97 in 2015. The menace posed here by the fact that these deaths occur in custody even before the case is presented for hearing is grave.
It marks approximately 10 years since The Prevention of Torture Bill 2010 was introduced in order to bring stricter provisions with respect to torture and make it a punishable offence under Section 4 of the bill with 10 years of imprisonment. Unfortunately, the same failed due to its inability to be passed in Rajya Sabha.
The bill primarily highlighted the importance of India’s stance towards the UN Convention against Torture 1975 which embodies in itself Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India was a signatory but was yet to ratify the same, then and now, 10 years, if we may.
But again, the efforts did not seem to stop there. In 2017 Prevention of Torture Bill was drafted which was mainly a result of recommendations of the 273rd Law Commission report which aimed at bringing in stricter and more stringent provisions which included life imprisonment and fine.
The Commission further recommended insertion of Section 114B to the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 which pointed out the presumption that is ought to be taken in a case where there has been any injury suffered, that the onus is upon the concerned authority to justify the same merely cause of the fact that it becomes nearly impossible to hear the case when there is absolutely no true evidence because these terrorizing acts take place solely in the presence of police without any witnesses and in cases where the victim dies it’s even harder.
But don’t we all know how this ends? The Prevention of Torture Bill draft was up for states to submit their opinions on as criminal law comes under the ambit of concurrent list and to everyone’s disappointment only 8 states responded. Furthermore, the recommendations were not taken forth by the Central Government and neither did the Supreme Court issue any directions for the same though complaints were raised and yet there we had what was another story for us to be told that never led to fruition.
It is not just the recent cases like the custodial death of the father son duo namely Jayaraj and Bennix in Tamil Nadu which broke all barriers of humanity that should bring forth the callousness that has been existing, it’s not now that these issues are coming to surface rather this has been a part of our system for years together now, we’ve had landmark judgements like DK Basu that gave us a ray of hope to cling to, yet here we are again after 24 years ashamed to be witnesses to such police brutality in the name of liberty. The biggest hurdle in the Indian Criminal Justice System irrespective of the democratic nature of our country where people have the right and liberty to voice their opinions on such gruesome issues that perpetrate Human Rights violations is the fact that there exists a lack of enforcement of existing solutions.