12 October 2020
By Shemin Joy
This is including nearly 33,000 between April and September in 2020
In his message, NHRC Chairperson Justice H L Dattu said the Commission has consistently endeavoured to broaden the ambit of human rights with the challenges of changing times for the protection of the civil and political rights of the people including safeguarding their economic, social, and cultural rights.
Between October 2019 and September 2020, he said, the NHRC registered 73,729 complaints of which 32,876 were received in the past five months while the country was impacted by Covid-19
pandemic. These also included 29 suo moto cases of human rights violation.
Justice Dattu said the NHRC could not organise any function to celebrate its Foundation Day owing to Covid-19 but expressed hope that they could celebrate it along with International Human Rights Day on 10th December.
“This year has been very tough globally for humanity due to Covid-19 pandemic. We have been trying to cope with the related challenges in line with the spirit of Covid-19 warriors to face the
adversity despite the fact that some of NHRC employees were also impacted by the pandemic,” he said.
Even as the NHRC celebrated its Foundation Day, an NGO National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) urged the Commission to recall its “order diluting mandatory judicial inquiries into custodial deaths” claiming that there is no judicial inquiry in 71% cases of deaths in police custody.
The NHRC has said that an enquiry by a Judicial Magistrate or Metropolitan Magistrate is mandatory only in those cases of custodial death where there is “reasonable suspicion of foul play or well founded allegation of commission of an oence” All other cases of custodial death where the death is natural or caused by the disease may be enquired into by an Executive Magistrate”, the NCAT said.
The NCAT said that the directions of the NHRC had a significant impact on the refusal of the State authorities to not conduct inquiries by judicial magistrate into the cases of custodial death.
Citing ‘Crime in India’ reports between 2010 and 2019, it said 938 deaths or disappearance in police custody were reported from 2010 to 2019 out of which judicial inquiry was ordered only in 276 cases, which is 29% of the total cases.
In an overwhelming 71% of cases of “death or disappearance of persons in police custody”, it said, judicial inquiries were not ordered, among others, because of the leeway or wrongful interpretation of Section 176(1A) CrPC provided by the NHRC.
“Since the NHRC as the relevant authority monitoring custodial deaths in India including reporting to it custodial deaths within 24 hours had issued directions that it is not mandatory to conduct judicial inquiries under Section 176(1A), the State authorities/police no longer felt the necessity to conduct mandatory judicial inquiries,” Suhas Chakma of NCAT said.