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  • Zoya Khan

DEATH BEHIND BARS: FATAL CUSTODY UNVEILING THE DARK SIDE OF DETENTION: CUSTODIAL DEATHS IN INDIA 

Zoya Khan,

Jamia Milia Islamia

DEATH BEHIND BARS: FATAL CUSTODY UNVEILING THE DARK SIDE OF DETENTION: CUSTODIAL DEATHS IN INDIA 

Introduction

When those who are expected to uphold the law take law into their own hands, it can be one of the most hazardous poisons in a democracy.

This reminds me the dialogue of Dabangg 3

Ek hota hai Gunda Ek hota hai Police vala or Hum kehlate hai Police vala gunda”

These narratives romanticised the executive overreach and allowed them to exercise over authority and allowed them to be “Rowdy cops”

The irony in this statement is that custody refers to guardianship, and in this case, the saver is just breaking the laws created for citizens to ensure their welfare and safety. During custody police use various methods to extract confessions and obtain evidence from accused “Third-degree torture” often referred to as custody torture, is the cause of a prisoner's death; these cases are referred to as custodial deaths of prisoners. which is the most horrific and severe conduct that violates an accused human rights and fundamental right that is their right to life, as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. People from lower social classes and backward castes in India are primarily victims of custodial deaths due to ignorance and lack of awareness of their constitutionally protected rights, which allows the state to take advantage of those rights. In 2019 there were 1,731 deaths in custody; in 2021–2022, there were 2,307 deaths. This suggests that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were more instances. Just twenty-six police officers have been found guilty of causing deaths while in custody within the past 20 years.

Definition of custodial death

If someone passes away "in custody," it is considered that they died as a result of being tortured or receiving any other cruel, inhuman, or humiliating treatment by law enforcement. It covers deaths that occur in jails, on police or other vehicles, at private or medical facilities, or in public spaces. It is arguably one of the. worst crimes in a civilised society governed by the rule of law.

Types of custodial death

Death in Police Custody: Abuse or incidental causes, such as the use of excessive force, torture, or denial of medical attention, can all lead to death in police custody.

Death in Judicial Custody: Suicide, inmate violence, inadequate hygienic conditions, overcrowding, and a lack of medical resources can all result in death in judicial custody.

Death in the Hands of the Army or Paramilitary Forces: Extrajudicial executions and torture are two possible causes.

Unfortunate instances of Custodial Death

On 18 April 2022, Vignesh and Suresh were arrested with liquor bottles and Ganja by police officers during vehicle check after the day of arrest Vignesh declared dead by doctors. The officials were arrested for custodial death on the basis of an autopsy report which stated that the victim had multiple injuries, fractures, bruises all over the body of the victim, especially on his head.

Most of the cases of custodial death don't get much attention but this case of custodial death of father and son in Tamil Nadu got much needed attention and media trial. In this case accused died in four days after their arrest father and son were arrested for opening cell phone store at time of lockdown curfew

No procedure followed by officials and excessive force were used to beat them until death. The brutality of police can be determined by the fact that the victims had to change their clothes six times which got drenched with blood. Their family members also proclaimed that they were also sexually assaulted by police officials using steel batons.

Recent case of custodial death at Kerala of Tamir Jafari (30-year-old) on 1 August 2023 Which was investigated by CBI

Analysis of Tragic Data of Custodial Death

Throughout the nation, 669 cases of people dying while in police custody have been reported in the five years between April 1, 2017, and March 31, 2022. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in accordance with the Ministry of Home Affairs, reported 175 cases of deaths in police custody in 2021–2022, 100 in 2020–2021, 112 in 2019–2021; 136 in 2018–2019; and 146 in 2017–2018. Gujarat has been reported to have had the greatest number of custodial deaths, followed by Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar. In a report detailing custodial deaths in 2019, the National Campaign against Torture confirmed that, of 125 deaths, 93 were attributable to police misconduct or torture.

Laws regarding custodial death

The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) specifies what has to be done when holding someone involuntarily or while they are being held by the court on remand. According to Section 57 of the CrPC, a police officer is not allowed to detain a person for longer than 24 hours. Section 167 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that before detaining a suspect for more than twenty-four hours, the officer must request special permission from the magistrate.

Article 20 of the Indian Constitution provides the main defence against a criminal conviction. The main defence in this article is the one against self-incrimination. Police would torture someone until they confessed, even if they had not committed the alleged crime.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to be free from torture. This point of view is supported by the fact that the right to life extends beyond the capacity to lead an animalistic life.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution highlights each person's "right to live with dignity" and well-being.

Furthermore, human rights violations, including torture in custody, are addressed by the

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which was established by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1935. Statistics on deaths in custody show a systemic inability to stop custodial violence through the effective application of law, despite these legal protections.

The judiciary contributed significantly by providing guidelines in a number of cases. In the widely recognised D.K. Basu case, the Honourable Supreme Court released a series of eleven directives in the 1997.

Information about every employee overseeing the detained person's questioning needs to be

recorded in a registry.

An arrest statement ought to be ready at the time of the arrest. The time and date of the arrest, as well as the detainee's signature, must also be on the document.

Detainees must be informed by police of their time, location, and custody arrangements. Eight or twelve hours following the arrest, the local police in the impacted area exchanged messages via telegraph.

A note must be made in the Case Diary at the place of detention.

The Supreme Court published guidelines in Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar to stop police officers and magistrates from making needless arrests and detentions. The police officer must give the accused notice to appear before him in the case of a cognizable offence. In front of the magistrate, he will present the accused and turn in the checklist with the justifications for the arrest. Once the Magistrate has reviewed the checklist and is satisfied with the report's justifications, they will detain the accused.

Judicial and executive magistrates are currently included in the term "magistrate."

However, the Supreme Court ruled in People's Union for Civil Liberties v. State of Maharashtra that judicial magistrates must always conduct the investigation in cases involving death by police torture.

Proactive measures to prevent custodial fatalities

1.Custodial staff members receive regular instruction on identifying and handling medical emergencies.

2. Putting procedures in place to ensure that prisoners receive prompt, appropriate medical care.

3.Regularly evaluating and screening prisoners' health both at the point of admission and during their incarceration.

4.Ensuring that prisoners are properly supervised and monitored, particularly those who have medical issues or are at risk of self-harm.

5. Keeping the building's atmosphere safe and secure to avert mishaps and acts of violence. 6. Putting in place programmes to prevent suicide and providing prisoners with mental health support services.

7.Creating a clear line of communication between medical staff, custodial staff, and other pertinent parties.

8. Launching comprehensive investigations to find the core causes of any incidents involving deaths in custody and putting corrective measures in place

9. Promoting transparency and accountability with the custodial system to address issues promptly and effectively.

10.  Sensitization of media to bring attention to the case of custodial so that they can justice

11.There is need of enacting anti torture law

Conclusion

The Supreme Court ruled in numerous cases w custodial death as gravest offence. In addition to violating fundamental rights and human rights, it also undermines the basic rule of law, which is to protects citizens. Because it was committed by a law protector, it ranks among the worst crimes against our society. More depressingly, police have been known to use a variety of torture techniques to make them confess and to extract evidence and tortured them until death and the fact that only 26 police officers have been found guilty further suggests that justice has not been served.

People must speak out against such atrocities collectively if "custodial death," a social evil, is to be eradicated from society. The public, media, legislative branch, and judicial branch must band together to ensure that the police department—on which we are counting—acknowledges that “they are the saviour, not a slayer.”

References

●Deaths in Custody in India Highlight Police Torture”, Human Rights Watch, June 30,

2020

●“Justice for Jayaraj and Bennix Means Ending a Culture of Impunity” By Hugo Gorringe and Karthikeyan Damodaran, The Wire, July 2nd, 2020

●“NHRC recorded 31,845 custodial-death cases between 1993 and 2016: Report”, Business Standard, December 11, 2019

●D.K. Basu vs. State of West Bengal (18.12.1996 – SC): MANU/SC/0157/1997

● Custodial Death Definition Law Insider, https://www.lawinsider.com/dictionary/custodial-death

● India | National Campaign Against Torture, http://www.uncat.org/tag/india/

● Arnesh Kumar vs State of Bihar (2014)8 SCC 273

● People’s Union For Civil Liberties And ... vs State Of Maharashtra & Ors

2014 (10) SCC 635

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