A survey on the status of Police in India is said to have affirmed that the black sheep in the police force find nothing wrong with beating up criminals to extract a confession. UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: This Torture Convention was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1984 (resolution 39/46).  The Convention entered into force on 26 June 1987 after it had been ratified by 20 States which has resulted in many works after the adoption.

  • Adoption of Torture Declaration: The Torture Declaration was intended to be the starting point for further work against torture. 
  • Adoption of Second Resolution: In a second resolution, the General Assembly requested the Commission on Human Rights to study the question of torture and any necessary steps for ensuring the effective observance of the Torture.
  • Working of the Commission:  With the initiation of the Commission on Human rights, it started to address the problems of genocide, political liquidations, mass killings, arbitrary and summary executions.

International Implementation:  As the effectiveness of the Torture Convention, like that of many other human rights conventions, would depend to a large extent on the supervision system. For better implementation, it was finally decided that a Committee against Torture would be set up (article 17 of the Torture Convention) with the following tasks:

  • To receive, study and comment on periodic reports from the States Parties on the measures they have taken to give effect to their undertakings under the Convention.
  • To initiate an investigation when there is reliable information that appears to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practiced in the territory of a State party.
  • To receive and examine complaints by one State party of violations of the Convention by another State party.
  • To receive and examine applications by individuals claiming to be victims of a violation of the Convention by a State party.

Countries on the Convention: 

  • India: On October 14, 1997, India has signed the UN Convention against Torture and is yet to ratify it by enacting the law on torture.
  • Pakistan: Pakistan has signed the convention on April 17, 2008, and ratified on June 3, 2010
  • Afghanistan: On the other hand, Afghanistan signed the convention on February 4, 1985, and ratified on April 1, 1987.
  • China: China, for instance, signed the Convention on December 12, 1986, and hurriedly ratified the treaty on October 4, 1988. 

India on the Convention: India signed the UN Convention Against Torture on 14, 1997, but is yet to ratify it by enacting the law on torture: What do the laws say?

  • Enquire of Cases by Magistrate: Any custodial or other causes of death in police custody are enquired into by a magistrate and in some cases; a judicial inquiry can also be ordered.
  • Criminal Cases against the accused Policeman: Criminal cases under substantive sections can also be instituted against the accused policemen.
  • Sever action in the cases of filing complaints in Courts: Complaints against policemen have been filed in courts, which have taken severe action in such cases. 
  • Installation of CCTV cameras:  Installation of CCTV cameras covering hawala rooms in police stations has been made mandatory.
  • NHRC as Watchdog:  In addition, the National Human Rights Commission acts as the watchdog of human rights.
  • Enhancement of the state Role: The state must take the responsibility of fixing these instruments to ensure that they deliver justice to the victims of human rights abuse. 
  • Setting up of Police Complaints Authority: State also must implement the Supreme Court’s directive on setting up a Police Complaints Authority in every state of India.

Law Commission of India on the Conventions: In November 2017, the Law Commission of India in its 273rd report recommended that the government ratify the convention.

  • The Commission also presented a draft of a new Prevention of Torture Bill to the government, which has not yet been adopted.

The Analysis of the Issue:

  • Custodial Killing in India:

The issue of custodial atrocities has emerged a major issue of human rights concern and one of the root obstacles to democracy and the development of human well being in contemporary societies. The term ‘custodial violence’ includes all types of physical and mental torture inflicted upon a person in police custody.  It is a crime against humanity and a violation of human rights. The practice of custodial violence in developing countries like India, is, however, more difficult and complex.  A large number of cases of police brutality take place not because of individual aberration, but because of systematic compulsions. Statistics:  In its publication, Human Rights Watch Report has said that 97 people died in police and there was not a single known case in the past five years in which a police officer had been convicted for a custodial death. Types of Custodial Violence: There are different methods to bring or commit custodial violence which is applied to bring the desired results by the government agencies.

  • Physiological Violence: To break the confidence and morale of the victim various methods are used by communication techniques in which the victim is given the wrong information and is tortured mentally.
  • By depriving the victim of the basic needs like water, food, sleep and toilet facilities which result in disorientation and confusion.
  • Pharmacological techniques like the use of various drugs to facilitate torture of the victim to mask the effect of torture and also as a means of torture.
  • Threats and humiliations which are directed towards persons in custody or their family members or friends.
  • Physical Violence: Following are the methods generally adopted to cause physical violence or torture on the victims:
  • Causing disfigurement and exhaustion.
  • Causing torture to such an extent that the victim feels fear of immediate death.
  • Forcing the victims to sleep on the damp floor.
  • Scratches and cuts are made on different parts of the body with sharp objects.
  • The use of irritants like chili powder, table salts, etc. are applied to delicate parts or on open wounds.
  • Sexual Violence: Sexual violence has a great social and psychological impact on the minds of its victims. It may start with verbal sexual abuse and humiliation targeting victims’ dignity. 
  • It results in rape or sodomy. 
  • The violators of this crime keep devising new methods according to their own mental aptitude and imagination to break the resistance of the subject quickly as well as to satiate his/her own urges.

Protections Under Indian Laws:

  • Constitutional Provisions: The Protections against Custodial Violence under the Indian Constitution are as follows:
  • The prohibitions imposed by Article 20 of the constitution are directly relevant to the criminal process. 
  • Article 20(1): Article 20(1) prohibits the retrospective operation of penal legislations. 
  • Article 20(2): Article 20(2) guards against double jeopardy for the same offense. 
  • Article 20(3): Article 20(3) provides that no person accused of any offense shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. 
  • Article 21: Article 21 of the Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
  • Supreme Court on protecting Custodial Violence: The Apex Court earlier declared that any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment would be offensive to human dignity and constitute an inroad into this right to live.
  • D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal: Under this case, the Supreme court of India observed in this widely publicized death in police custody that using torture to impermissible and offensive to Article 21. 
  • Protection Under the Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973: The code of criminal procedure, 1973 contains provisions intended to operate as a safeguard against custodial torture.
  • Section 49: Section 49 provides that the person arrested shall not be subjected to more restraint than is necessary to prevent his escape.
  • Section 57: Section 57 provides that no police officer shall detain in custody a person arrested without a warrant for a longer period.

The reality of Police Infrastructure:

  • Lacking Basic technology: Police stations in outlying rural areas lack basic technology, forensic aid, and materials for crime detection. 
  • Connectivity Gap: Many of the police stations are located in signal gap zones, where mobile phones barely work and internet connectivity is weak or non-existent.
  • Unmotorable Road: The roads are unmotorable. A single big police station looks after 70 to 80 villages in large states. Crime is rampant.
  • Poor Building Infrastructure: The building infrastructure in many cases is still poor and unliveable.
  • Grossly Overworked:  With a severe manpower deficit, India’s police force is grossly overworked. The heavy pendency of work is coupled with brazen political interference. 
  • High Work Stress: Work stress is inordinately high and the quality of life poor and demotivating.
  • In-efficiency in Crime Detection: The crime detention rate is very poor in the case of efficiency in the police station and is a matter of constant worry.
  • Brazen Political Interference: The heavy pendency of work is coupled with brazen political interference. 

The government on Better Policing: Creation of Human Rights Commission:  The human rights commissions established which provide another means of holding the police accountable in cases of misconduct. 

The government on Modernisation of Police Force: Earlier the Union Cabinet has given its approval for implementation of the umbrella scheme of “Modernisation of Police Forces (MPF)” for years 2017-18 to 2019-20.  Features of the Scheme: 
  • Special provision: Special provision has been made under the Scheme for internal security, law, and order, women security, availability of modern weapons, the hiring of helicopters, National Satellite Network, CCTNS project, E-prison project, etc.
  • J&K, North Eastern, and the LWE States: Central budget outlay of Rs.10,132 crore has been earmarked for internal security-related expenditure for Jammu & Kashmir, the North Eastern States and left-wing extremism affected States.
  • Scheme of Special Central Assistance (SCA): For 35 worst LWE affected districts has been introduced with an outlay of Rs.3,000 crore to tackle the issue of underdevelopment in this district.
  • Infrastructure up-gradation: New initiatives will be introduced to provide assistance to States for upgradation of police infrastructure, forensic science laboratories, institutions.
  • Integration of Police Stations: Police Stations will be integrated to set up a national database of crime and criminals’ records.
  • Forensic science laboratories: The scheme also provides for setting up of a State-of-Art forensic science laboratory in Amravati, Andhra Pradesh and upgradation of Sardar Patel Global Centre for Security, Counter-Terrorism and Anti Insurgency in Jaipur.
The motive of the Scheme:
  • Meeting the identified Deficiencies: To meet the identified deficiencies in the various aspects of police administration worked out by the BPR&D.  
  • Reducing the Dependence on Army & CPMF: To reduce the dependence of the State Governments on the Army and CPMF.  
  • Better Equipment of State Police: To control internal security and Law and Order situation by way of equipping the State Police Forces adequately and imparting the required training.  
  • This scheme will help to Government’s ability to address the challenges faced in different theatres such as areas affected by LWE, Jammu and Kashmir and North East effectively.
  • It will also aid to undertake development interventions that will catalyze in improving the quality of life in these areas and help combat these challenges effectively at the same time.
  • It is expected that the scheme will go a long way to boost the capability and efficiency of Central and State Police Forces by modernizing them.
  • What needs to be done?
  • Providing Modern-day Amenities: All police stations need to be provided with modern-day amenities and connectivity.
  • Promotion of Hassle-Free Interrogation:  A dire need is a state-of-the-art technology and equipment to promote hassle-free interrogation and crime detection.
  • Proper Police force Training: The police force needs to be trained at regular intervals and special training should be imparted to the state police personnel by the CBI on questioning suspects. 

Way Forward: Police are the machinery that controls crime. If a crime takes place in police custody, then we must lean towards some other machinery to curb it. Despite this, we have many provisions in our Indian laws, custodial violence continues to exist.  It is the duty of the prison administration to provide proper facilities of medical, sanitation, food, security to the prisoners. For the betterment of the police machinery, following points must be taken under into consideration while making policy initiative to curb the menace of Torture in India:

  • Adoption of effective mechanism: Adoption of an effective mechanism for police will enable the police supervisory structures to reduce torture to a great extent. 
  • Sustained focus on Ease of Doing Policing: Sustained focus on Ease of Doing Policing and measures for empowering the police within a well-established accountability framework could prove to be the biggest step towards reducing this practice. 
  • Better Recruitment Process: The recruitment process for the police has to be equipped with modern psychoanalytic tools to shun the entry of those with a grain of brutality. 
  • Separation law for Torture: The government should enact separate laws for torture which will provide proper mechanism to curb the menace.

Also read: Stalled Police Reforms In India India’s police force among the world’s weakest