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Police Stations, a threat to human rights?

The death of a 47-year-old, Murugesan fruit stall owner, allegedly killed by a special sub-inspector of Tamil Nadu Police, killing of Bennix and his father Jayaraj last year June in custody, brutal torture of army men Resham Singh while humiliation of his sisters and mother was ongoing in Pilibhit, UP.

Also, an 18-year-old vegetable vendor named Faisal Hussain was allegedly beaten for violating covid-119 directives in U.P police custody. All such cases and other custodial deaths in police stations, even in jails, seem to be commonplace these days.

Thus, Police stations are stated to be the highest threat to human rights. The same issue is raised furtherly by CJI N V Ramana, by flagging the issue and terming it as a ‘Sacrosanct’. 

BACKGROUND OF STATEMENT: 

In an ongoing NALSA event, CJI N V Ramana was supposed to deliver a lecture. And in the respective lecture, he primarily mentioned about the threats to human rights and bodily integrity are the highest in police stations. 

CONSTITUTIONAL RELEVANCE: 

Also, custodial torture and other police atrocities be significant issues prevailing in our society. And despite several constitutional ascertainities and declarations like Articles 20 and 21, there is an intrinsic lack of effective legal representation at the police stations concerned with arrested/detained individuals.

Also, Article 39A declares that justice needs to be availed to every individual and shouldn’t be denied but custodial deaths reflect a clear negation of the same and even detain people from exercising their basic human rights. 

CJI further stated that even if decisions for the same are taken at this very moment and in the early hours, it would later determine the ability of the accused to defend himself. Even recent reports say that a third-degree treatment is experienced not only by a low-class individual but even the privileged ones.

So, to keep the excess brutality of police authorities in check, dissemination of information about the constitutional rights to legal aid, provided in Article 39A and Article 21 should be made and availability of free legal aid services should be necessary.

Also, in the same regard, an installation of display boards and outdoor hoardings in every police station and prison needs to be done in this direction. A nationwide sensitisation of police officers was also called upon by him. Also, he demanded free legal aid facilities for underprivileged classes. 

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All such measures would then attribute towards stressing the need to work on access to justice for all, irrespective of their socio-economic status, also insurance of a society governed by rule of law and it would bridge the gap of accessibility to justice between the highly privileged and the most vulnerable. 

POINT OF VIEW: AMIT SHAH, UNION HOME MINISTER

Also, the same aspect was stated by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah, when he was addressing the inauguration of the Centre of Excellence for Research and analysis of Narcotics and Psychotropic substances of the National Forensic Sciences University in Ahmedabad on July 12.

He stated that the police in our country are accused of either ‘No Action’ or ‘Extreme Action’. In fact, the victims of crime shudder at the thought of visiting the police stations and being unable to complete the same task, also the fear exaggerates if the person belongs to a marginalised section of society.

Thus, there is an intense necessity to reform our police system and till the time it doesn’t get better, we will continue encountering breaches of Human Rights. 

DATA AND SURVEYS: 

Surveys in the same regard also project a similar ideology. As these criminal records or survey reports clearly mention the violence done by the police has been reported across the nation and the police personnel are not adequately trained in Human Rights and they have the tendency to inflict punishments outside the judicial process.

Considering the latest crime report of India, by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 70 people died in police custody in 2018. And Gujarat topped the list by 14 deaths and followed by Tamil Nadu which recorded 12 custodial deaths. Only 3 of these 70 in total deaths were categorized by the Police authority as having occurred due to physical assault by police, while the illness was registered as a cause of death in 32 of the 70 cases.

While 17 of these deaths were attributed to be a suicidal cases, 7 were having injuries even before police custody, 7 eloped from the custody and 1 individual died in custody due to a road accident and the other 3 are having other reasons. 

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Further, in 2019 NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) reported 117 custodial deaths due to an involvement by the police authority.

INSIGHTS BY NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION: 

National Campaign Against Torture, a joint initiative by multiple non-governmental organizations reported that deaths in police custody occur primarily due to torture.

Also, a significance could be drawn by Nilabati Behera Vs UOI, wherein Supreme Court stated that custodial torture and custodial death are against Article 21 i.e., Right to Life and the same needs to be stopped at the earliest.

Also, the report recorded that the torture is usually done to obtain essential information, extract confessions, demand bribes etc., which is an explicit violation of Article 20 of the Indian Constitution. And, clearly mentioned in Nandini Satpathy vs P L Dani, Article 20 was declared to be a very essential article that should not be violated or infringed by the police system in any possible condition.

Also, out of 125 deaths in police custody as per the record stated in 2018, 93 persons (Or three in every four) were died due to alleged torture or foul play and 24 due to some suspicious circumstances with the police claiming that they either committed suicide or died because of any certain illness or accident. 

Also, data for custodial deaths were asked in Parliament, to which a written reply was granted in Lok Sabha by the Former Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy and stated it clearly that 1, 697 custodial deaths were registered between April 2019 to March 2020, out of which, 1,584 deaths were made in judicial custody while the rest 113 were in police custody.

Wherein Uttar Pradesh topped the list by 400 deaths in custody, followed by Madhya Pradesh holding a count of 143 custodial deaths. Which derives those five custodial deaths happen every day in our country. 

HOW TO CURB THE COUNT? 

Many policemen are taken to the lockup, but they are rather left scot-free by manipulating the official data and records and intimidating complainants or political patronage, also it is however up to the discretion of Senior police officers to ensure prompt actions initiated against policemen who indulge in the matters of custodial deaths of brutal tortures.

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Also, the guilty of such cases should be tried for Murder and when such individuals would be promptly punished, it will conclusively amount to deliver a loud and clear message to other rogue policemen that the law will ultimately catch them up. 

But, in terms of punishing such police personnel, NCRB data for 2018 defines how 89 such cases were filed in respect of human rights violations including custodial deaths, but none of them was convicted.

Also, the Status of Policing in India report, released by a non-governmental organization named Common Cause and CSDS-Lokniti, based on a survey of around 12,000 police personnel across 21 states represented the fact that such behaviour by Police authority might be a reflection of inadequacies and biases faced by these officials.

Also, the report showed that around 12% of police personnel never receive any certain training on Human Rights issues and even the person who received the training was only at the time of joining the police force and for a short duration. 

SOLUTIONS OTHER THAN SANSITIZATION: 

India is not a ratified member of the ‘UN convention against torture, although it was signed by India in 1997 but never ratified and no official law has been passed by the legislation on Anti-torture or police reforms concerning custodial deaths.

Also, several guidelines concerning police arrest were given in the D.K Basu vs State of Bengal Case, but they are not followed in certain courts. And, senior police authorities need to look after the codification and implementation of these laws in almost every Indian police station. 

Moreover, Section 114B of the Indian Evidence Act raises a notion of holding the officers accountable for criminal culpability if any individual is found to be dead in his/her custody, but the same needs to be implemented effectively.

Also, the police personnel who remains as mere spectator of the torture should be punished for a contributed crime and sub-divisional police officials and superintendents of police should also be held accountable for the impropriety committed by those under their supervision. 

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