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Custodial Violence in India: A Call for Human Rights Protection

"Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power."[1] - - James Madison

Custody primarily refers to police custody (lock up in a police station) and judicial custody (jail), which includes rapes, torture, and deaths. In today's time, custodial violence has become one of the heinous crimes that often go unpunished. If we analyze the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), then we get to know that a lot of custodial death cases were registered, and a charge sheet was also filed against the police officer, but in most of the cases, they were not convicted, as shown in Table 1. TABLE 1

This is a recent crime record maintained by the NCRB.

The Indian police, created by the British and operating under the Police Act of the same time, remains in the news and discussion every day for its brutality, autocracy, and anti-law activities.[2]

Tamil Nadu is famous for custodial abuse or violence, but it does not mean that in other states, there is no case related to custodial deaths or violence. For example, in Delhi jail, there are a lot of cases filed against police officers for custodial abuse, but no action is taken against those officers. As per NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) report, 151 people died in Police custody, which is a huge number but no action is taken by the government against those police officers who are guilty of the crime.

The custodial violence includes 3 types of violence, which are as follows:
Physical Violence
This is the most common cause of custodial death because most police officers use force, which causes physical harm to the person, and sometimes, they die because of this cruelty shown by those police officers.

Psychological Violence
This is also a very common torture type in custodial violence; police officers sometimes do not provide the basic needs for life like food, clothes, and even water to the victims, which causes the victims to lose confidence and morale. And threats to the victim's loved ones can also cause them mental agony.

Sexual Violence
There are a lot of cases related to rape or sexual harassment of women in custody, which is really shameful for our country.

The biggest issue in the present context is that after a long, dark history of custodial violence, still our country is facing this problem, which is neither good for our bureaucracy nor for the governance of our country. There are a lot of deaths in police custody/lockup (persons who are not on remand) and (persons on remand) as per the NCRB recorded data of 2021, shown in table 2 and table 3.

This is clearly a violation of articles 20 (1)[3], (2)[4], (3)[5]; article 21[6] and article 22[7] one of the important fundamental rights under the part III of the Indian Constitution.

Supreme court of India also try to solve this issue by giving landmark decisions, let's discuss some important judgements of the supreme court related to this issue.

Nilabati Behera vs. State of Orissa (1993)
In this case, Suman Behera, petitioner's son was arrested by the police and next day his dead body was found on the railway track with multiple injuries on his body. And, the police claimed that the victim was escaped from the police station. Now, the questions arise before the court that is: Whether the victim suffered injuries due to custodial violence? And whether the police are liable for the death of the victim? The supreme court observed everything and found that the injuries to the victim were inflicted while he was in custody and subjected to custodial violence. The court also held that it is the responsibility of the state to provide compensation of Rs. 1,55,000 to the victim's family.

D. K. Basu vs. State of West Bengal (1997)
This case is important because the Supreme Court in this case recognised custodial violence and police brutality. It stated that custodial violence is an attack on the dignity of a human being. The court noted that enacting recommendations and policies have had no effect as a death in police custody is increasing at an increasing rate. In this case, the Supreme Court laid down 11 guidelines that are to be followed while making an arrest. These guidelines consist of various rights that are available to every arrested person.[8]
  1. The police personnel must bear name tags with their designations while making arrests or conducting an interrogation.
  2. Arrest memo to be prepared and copy of it to be attested by a family member or a respectable person of the locality. It must also be signed by the arrestee and must include the date and time of the arrest.
  3. In cases where a relative or family member of the arrestee is not present during the arrest, he is entitled to inform one friend or relative or other person having an interest in his welfare, of the arrest and location of detention.
  4. Within 8-12 hours, the relative or friend of the arrestee must be informed of the time, place of arrest, and venue of custody if they live outside the district or town.
  5. Person arrested to be made aware of his right to inform someone of his arrest.
  6. An entry to be made in the diary of the place of detention, name of the friend who has been informed, and names and particulars of police officials in whose custody the arrestee is.
  7. Major and minor injuries to be recorded at the time of arrest and to be signed by both the arrestee and the police officer. A copy of it is to be provided to the arrestee.
  8. Medical examination by a doctor every 48 hours during the arrestee's detention.
  9. Copies of all documents are to be sent to the Magistrate.
  10. Arrestees may be permitted to meet their lawyer during interrogation.
  11. A police control room to be provided in all districts and arrests to be intimated within 12 hours to the control room.
After observing everything related to this issue now, the question arises that: what are the solutions for this issue? Let's discuss some suggestions and solutions.
  1. Police officers should wear body cams with all facilities like audio recording, GPS tracking, etc.
  2. CCTV cameras have to installed in every police station at the expense of the state.
  3. Physical- medical check up should be done time to time of all the prisoners.
  4. In every police station there is need to put up the poster of all rights of the prisoners.
  5. Awareness camps should be arranged by the state government.
  6. Lastly, an Anti-Torture law must be made as soon as possible containing strict punishments for the offenders. Some of the sources from which India can take inspiration.
Hence, the police officer's duty is to protect the citizens from wrong things or activities, imagine what happen if this protector become the country's best enemy. And, instead of stopping criminals from committing crime, they itself committing the crime. Every day about 10-20% crimes are registered for the custodial violence crimes and the most shameful thing is that the sexual violence or harassment in police custody is increasing day by day. There is urgent need for strict laws or rules against the custodial violence. At last, you can imagine by the table 4 that many cases were charged against police officers for violating human rights of citizens of their own country.

  1. Abuse of power Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved from quotesgram:
  2. darapuri, S. (n.d.). india's dark history of cuatodial abuse. Retrieved from sabrang:
  3. Protection in respect of conviction for offences: (1) no person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.
  4. no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once.
  5. no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
  6. Protection of life and personal liberty: no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
  7. Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases
    1. No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice
    2. Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate
    3. Nothing in clauses (1) and (2) shall apply
      1. to any person who for the time being is an enemy alien; or
      2. to any person who is arrested or detained under any law providing for preventive detention
    4. No law providing for preventive detention shall authorise the detention of a person for a longer period than three months unless
      1. an Advisory Board consisting of persons who are, or have been, or are qualified to be appointed as, Judges of a High Court has reported before the expiration of the said period of three months that there is in its opinion sufficient cause for such detention:
    5. When any person is detained in pursuance of an order made under any law providing for preventive detention, the authority making the order shall, as soon as may be, communicate to such person the grounds on which the order has been made and shall afford him the earliest opportunity of making a representation against the order
    6. Nothing in clause (5) shall require the authority making any such order as is referred to in that clause to disclose facts which such authority considers to be against the public interest to disclose
    7. Parliament may by law prescribe
      1. the circumstances under which, and the class or classes of cases in which, a person may be detained for a period longer than three months under any law providing for preventive detention without obtaining the opinion of an Advisory Board in accordance with the provisions of sub clause (a) of clause (4);
      2. the maximum period for which any person may in any class or classes of cases be detained under any law providing for preventive detention; and
      3. the procedure to be followed by an Advisory Board in an inquiry under sub clause (a) of clause (4) Right against Exploitation
  8. Rath, s. (n.d.). i pleaders. Retrieved from

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