Definition Custodial death is the demise of an individual when he is detained or when he is under the custody of the Police Authorities
Background Pradeep Tomar a resident of Uttar Pradesh was called to the Police station for questioning in connection with a murder case. He died hours later after the policemen allegedly assaulted him. He was accompanied by his son to the police station who claimed that Tomar was repeatedly kicked, punched, hit with planks of wood, given electric shocks and pierced with a screwdriver.
Law in India As per Seventh Schedule, ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects under the Constitution o So the primary responsibility of prevention, detection, registration, investigation and prosecution of crimes, lies with the State Governments Most of the states in India have separate legislations dealing with the control of police in that state. Stats According to the National Crime Records Bureau, Custodial deaths have been on the increase in recent years. They increased by 9% from 92 in 2016 to 100 in 2017.
Concerns Custodial deaths is amongst the worst crimes in any civilized society. It is a flagrant violation of human dignity. It strikes at the very roots of the rule of law. These incidents have brought into sharp focus the way Indian policemen torture and interrogate suspects in their custody leading to death The policemen responsible for custodial deaths rarely get punished, they feel emboldened to continue using torture as the tool to get to the truth.
Why the issue Persists? The police play a major role in the administration of criminal justice. One of the reasons for custodial death is that the police feel that they have the power to manipulate evidence as the investigation is their prerogative and with such manipulated evidence, they feel they can bury the truth Lack of accountability reflects failure of Government to keep a check on police forces
Close nexus between Political masters and Police helps them escape trial There is the huge structural imbalance of power between the police and those who are tortured. The social and economically vulnerable status of most of the victims affects the chances of justice. In most cases even where there is evidence of custodial deaths, FIRs are not registered. Even if the FIR is filed and investigation takes place, since these enquiries are carried out by police officers after the custodial deaths, the results mostly favor the Police.
Way forward The Supreme Court in Prakash Singh v. Union of Indiahad issued an order in 2006 on Police Reforms. o It said that every State Government should set up an independent Police Complaints Authorities at the State and district levels to look into public complaints against police officers in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody o However, only a few States such as Kerala, Jharkhand, Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra have implemented the order. Others have not taken the matter seriously. Judicial Enquiry has to be conducted and if charges of violation are proved, maximum punishment as prescribed by law has to be imposed on the Police Officers. Scientific tools along with proper legitimate interrogation techniques have to be used to reduce custodial deaths rather than using practices of third degree and torture. The government must re-educate the police, sensitize them and inculcate values of respect for the human being Finally, to ensure that custodial deaths are avoided CCTV cameras must be installed inside the lock-ups, which should be monitored by the senior police officials.
Conclusion Therefore changes have to be introduced in the way the police operate by winning the support and confidence of the public and also by reorienting their style of functioning from brute force to one of service.