Torture in police custody is rampant in India. It is a pervasive problem that predates this report. The State and the police remain in worrying denial. The annual reports, Crime in India, of the National Crime Records Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs that report very few deaths in police custody reflect this disturbing denial.
The evidence presented in this report is under consideration of various courts and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The evidence underlines that torture by the police is rather a serious problem in India.
National Human Rights Commission Guidelines
In recognition of the scale of the problem of use of torture, on 14 December 1993, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued guidelines directing all District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police in every district to report to the Secretary General of the NHRC about custodial deaths/rapes within 24 hours. The NHRC warned that: “Failure to report promptly would give rise to presumption
that there was an attempt to suppress the incident”.
Supreme Court Ruling in D.K. Basu Vs State of West Bengal
Moreover in a landmark judgment in 1996 in the case of D.K.Basu Vs State of West Bengal, the Supreme Court laid down specific guidelines required to be followed while making arrests with the aim to eliminate violations of human rights in police custody. The principles laid down by the Supreme Court are given hereunder:
“1. The police personnel carrying out the arrest and handling the interrogation of the arrestee should bear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designations. The particulars of all such police personnel who handle interrogation of the arrestee must be recorded in a register;
- That the police officer carrying out the arrest shall prepare a memo of arrest at the time of arrest and such memo shall be attested by at least one witness, who may be either a member of the family of the arrestee or a respectable person of the locality from where the arrest is made. It shall also be counter signed by the arrestee and shall contain the time and date of arrest;
- A person who has been arrested or detained and is being held in custody in a police station or interrogation centre or other lock up, shall be entitled to have one friend or relative or other person known to him or having interest in his welfare being informed, as soon as practicable, that he has been arrested and is being detained at the particular place, unless the attesting witness of the memo of arrest is himself such a friend or a relative of the arrestee;
- The time, place of arrest and venue of custody of an arrestee must be notified by the police where the next friend or relative of the arrestee lives outside the district or town through the Legal Aid Organization in the District and the police station of the area concerned telegraphically within a period of 8 to 12 hours after the arrest;
- The person arrested must be made aware of his right to have someone informed of his arrest or detention as soon as he is put under arrest or is detained;
- An entry must be made in the diary at the place of detention regarding the arrest of the person which shall also disclose the name of the next friend of the person who has been informed of the arrest and the names land particulars of the police officials in whose custody the arrestee is;
- The arrestee should, where he so requests, be also examined at the time of his arrest and major and minor injuries, if any present on his/her body, must be recorded at that time. The ‘Inspection Memo’ must be signed both by the arrestee and the police officer affecting the arrest and its copy provided to the arrestee;
- The arrestee should be subjected to medical examination by the trained doctor every 48 hours during his detention in custody by a doctor on the panel of approved doctors appointed by Director, Health Services of the concerned State or Union Territory, Director, Health Services should prepare such a panel for all Tehsils and Districts as well;
- Copies of all the documents including the memo of arrest, referred to above, should be sent to the Magistrate for his record;
- The arrestee may be permitted to meet his lawyer during interrogation, though not throughout the interrogation; and
- A police control room should be provided at all district and State headquarters where information regarding the arrest and the place of custody of the arrestee shall be communicated by the officer causing the arrest, within 12 hours of effecting the arrest and at the police control room it should be displayed on a conspicuous notice board.”