Jurisprudence Resources

India: Judiciary’s action against torture in February 2019

The judiciary regularly adjudicates cases of illegal, unjustified and unwarranted arrests, extracting confession from innocent persons for offences which they have never committed, by way of custodial violence.

The emblematic cases are given below. 

I. Bombay HC directs Maharashtra Government to submit status report on installing CCTV cameras in police stations

On 18 February 2019, the Bombay High Court directed the state government of Maharashtra to submit status report in implementing its previous orders to install CCTV cameras at all police stations to prevent custodial deaths and torture. The order was passed by a division bench of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Anuja Prabhudessai asking the Secretary of the State’s Home Department to file an affidavit in the next hearing. The High Court was hearing a petition on the death of Agnello Valdaris (25) in railway police custody in 2014 filed by his father Leo Valdaris. On 15 April 2014, Agnello and three others, including a minor, were picked up for allegedly stealing a gold chain. They were sexually assaulted and tortured in custody. Agnello died three days later. Police claimed he was run over by a train while trying to escape.[1]

The petitioner’s lawyers informed the court that there was little progress in installing CCTVs. The Bench said “This court can always pass appropriate orders and also protect the accused being taken to police station. However, before passing any orders, we direct the secretary to place on record appropriate affidavit explaining the progress made and steps taken for compliance….”. In August 2014, the High Court had directed that rotating CCTV cameras be installed at all police stations in the state. The cameras were to be installed such that corridors and lock-ups are covered 24×7. In 2016, the State Government stated before the court that it would install CCTV cameras at 25 police stations in Mumbai as a pilot project. However, the high court found that even this pilot project was not fully implemented. The court also directed the State Government to explain its stand on adding murder charges against police officers booked for the custodial death of Agnello.[2]

II. Supreme Court reserved judgement on PIL seeking enactment of anti-torture law

On 14 February 2019, the Supreme Court reserved its judgment on public interest litigation (PIL) seeking legislation to prevent custodial torture in pursuance of India’s obligation to the international treaty, United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. While reserving the judgment, a three-judge bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Dinesh Maheswari and Sanjiv Khanna observed that fulfilment of international commitments cannot be a subject of the petition. A day earlier, the apex Court had accorded a day-long hearing on the PIL after petitioner and former Union Law Minister Ashwini Kumar had submitted that he has not been heard. Earlier in January 2019, the Supreme Court directed Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories to submit their feedback/comments on the Centre’s “Prevention of Torture Bill, 2017” within three weeks.[3]

The PIL was filed by Ashwini Kumar in 2016 seeking direction to the Government of India to frame a law to prevent custodial torture and inhuman treatment as India is a signatory to the UNCAT. The Supreme Court disposed off the PIL in November 2017 after the Centre gave the assurance that it was “seriously considering” the Law Commission of India’s report on the issue.[4] But in January 2019, the Court agreed to examine afresh Kumar’s petition as no progress was made on the issue.[5]

III. Telangana HC orders release of a person illegally detained under Preventive Detention Act

On 12 February 2019, Telangana High Court ordered release of S Vinay Kumar (36), working in an IT company, who was illegally detained under the Preventive Detention Act at Central Prison, Cherlapally in Telangana. The division bench, comprising Chief Justice TBN Radhakrishnan and Justice A Rajasheker Reddy found the police guilty of registering a false case under the Preventive Detention Act against the victim while hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by the victim’s brother. The High Court also said that the victim could agitate against the guilty police before a competent court. As per the petition, the victim was illegally detained on 8 October 2018 by Circle Inspector Nageshwara Rao and Sub-Inspector Ramakrishna of Madhapur police station by implicating him in a false case and sent him to judicial custody at Central Prison, Cherlapally where he was tortured. Doctors had confirmed that S Vinay Kumar was hit by the policemen and he sustained severe injuries. The victim was illegally detained under the preventive detention law without furnishing any of the required documents. As a result of the torture, Vinay Kumar suffered severe pain and was not in a position to sleep, sit or stand.[6]

IV. Madras HC issues notice to district administration of Kanyakumari over custodial death

On 5 February 2019, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court issued notice to the authorities of Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu to respond to a petition by a woman, whose husband allegedly died in police custody. In her petition, the woman identified as S Premi Ninjia from Muttom in the district stated that her husband, Sahaya Raj Thobiyas, a fisherman was detained by the police at Manavalukurichi police station for questioning in a criminal case on 3 November 2018. On the same day, she received a phone call from a police officer stating that her husband was admitted in Asaripallam government medical college hospital. When the woman reached the hospital, she was informed that her husband had died. According to the petition, she was informed by the police that her husband died during questioning. The woman approached the high court seeking transfer of the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation from the police due to dodgy investigation by police as well as lack of action by the district collector on her representations. Allowing the petition, the high court issued notice to the Superintendent of Police and Collector of Kanyakumari district over the custodial death.[7]

V. Gujarat HC directs registration of FIRs against police for custodial torture

On 1 February 2019, the Gujarat High Court directed the Judicial Magistrate at Talaja in Bhavnagar district to register first information reports (FIRs) against police personnel accused of custodial torture of 54 persons including women of Bambhor village who were agitating against limestone mining. The High Court passed the order after going through medical reports and statements given to the magistrate by the victims. In their petition, the victims alleged that the police arrested around 90 people for taking out a peaceful march against limestone mining by a private firm at Bambhor village on 2 January 2019. Around 50 to 70 male police personnel from Datha Police Station beat them at the behest of senior police officials. The victims sustained injuries including fracture in the hands, legs and spinal cord. The police did not take the injured victims, including women, to hospital and kept them in custody till they were produced in the court on 3 January. In the magistrate’s court, the 54 victims complained of custodial torture by policemen, allegedly in the presence of Superintendent of Police P L Mal. The victims were granted bail on 10 January on the condition that they will not go near the mining site. According to the victims, they recorded their statements about custodial torture before the magistrate at Talaja and forwarded it to the sessions court as per the procedure, but no action was taken for three weeks, which compelled them to move the high court.[8]


[1]. Bombay high court seeks status of CCTV cameras at police stations, The Times of India, 18 February 2019, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/hc-seeks-status-of-cctv-cams-at-police-stns/articleshowprint/68040109.cms

[2]. Bombay high court seeks status of CCTV cameras at police stations, The Times of India, 18 February 2019, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/hc-seeks-status-of-cctv-cams-at-police-stns/articleshowprint/68040109.cms

[3]. SC reserves judgement on PIL seeking anti-torture law; fulfilment of international commitments can’t be subject of petition, bench says, Firstpost, 14 February 2019, https://www.firstpost.com/india/sc-reserves-judgement-on-pil-seeking-anti-torture-law-fulfilment-of-international-commitments-cant-be-subject-of-petition-bench-says-6086471.html

[4]. File Inputs On Prevention Of Torture Bill Within 3 Weeks: SC Directs States, UTs, LiveLaw, 23 January 2019, https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/inputs-prevention-of-torture-bill-3-weeks-sc-142334

[5]. SC to examine afresh plea for framing of law to deal with custodial torture, The Times of India, 15 January 2019,  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sc-to-examine-afresh-plea-for-framing-of-law-to-deal-with-custodial-torture/articleshow/67544577.cms

[6]. Telangana High Court raps police for booking man under Preventive Detention Act, torturing him, The Indian Express, 13 February 2019, http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2019/feb/13/hc-raps-police-for-booking-man-under-pd-act-torturing-him-1938133.html

[7]. HC notice to Kanyakumari collector, SP over custodial death, The Times of India, 5 February 2019, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/hc-notice-to-kanyakumari-collector-sp-over-custodial-death/articleshowprint/67841852.cms

[8]. Guj HC asks seeks FIR against police for assaulting agitators, Business Today, 1 February 2019, https://www.businesstoday.in/pti-feed/guj-hc-asks-seeks-fir-against-police-for-assaulting-agitators/story/316213.html

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