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An unacceptable record, Deccan Herald

Deccan Herald
DH News Service, JUL 04, 2018

custodial deaths
custodial deaths

A report, Torture Update India, by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), which says that at least five people die in custody every day in India, is another reminder of the human rights challenges that continue to exist and get increasingly serious in the country. The report found that there were 1,674 custodial deaths, including deaths in judicial custody and in police custody, during the 11 months preceding February 28 this year. It also noted that the average of five deaths per day is a significant increase over the four deaths per day reported during the period from 2001 to 2010. This is a matter of serious concern as it shows that the human rights situation is only worsening in the country. The figures may not give a full picture either, because some deaths may not have been reported. For every person who dies, there are many more who are tortured and ill-treated and have to live with disabilities and physical and mental scars for their entire lives. The report has also said that the despicable detention conditions, which are
incompatible with human dignity, also amount to torture.

All this makes a terrible comment on the rule of law and the system of justice in the country and goes against the norms of civilised conduct. Torture and ill-treatment are taken as normal and accepted tools of questioning of persons in custody. Under-trials and prisoners in jails are regularly subjected to violence. The legal framework against torture has to be strengthened but governments and parliament have not taken the matter seriously. The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, was passed by the Lok Sabha in the same year, but it lapsed later after the Rajya Sabha referred it to a select committee. The present government says the matter has been sent to the Law Commission. A separate law is considered necessary because torture is among the most serious and pervasive violations of human rights in the country. The Supreme Court has underlined the need for such a law.

India should also ratify the UN Convention against Torture, which it signed in 1997. The failure to ratify the convention has been seen as a sign of lack of commitment to the idea of avoidance of torture and violence. It is also a hindrance to the extradition of wanted criminals and other fugitives from foreign countries. The issue is not just one of extradition of wanted persons. Custodial violence is a violation of the right to life and dignity. The law against torture should be passed and the UN Convention should be ratified at the earliest. Official and social attitudes should also change.

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