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5 Custodial Deaths Per Day, Rapes, Caste Crimes: Why CJI Finds Threat to Human Rights Highest in 'Thanas'

By: Rounak Kumar Gunjan

News18.com

Last Updated: August 09, 2021, 13:32 IST

A report by National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) also shows that 63 per cent of deaths in police custody occur within 24 hours of arrest. (Image for representation/PTI File)

A report by National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) also shows that 63 per cent of deaths in police custody occur within 24 hours of arrest. (Image for representation/PTI File)

The threat to human rights and bodily integrity are the highest in police stations, the CJI said.

Custodial torture and other police atrocities still prevail in India and even the “privileged are not spared third-degree treatment”, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said on Sunday. The threat to human rights and bodily integrity are the highest in police stations, the CJI said. The way ahead to keep police excesses in check, he pointed out, was “dissemination of information about the constitutional right to legal aid and availability of free legal aid services”.

News18 takes a look at the situation in police stations and what may have prompted the CJI to take note:

5 deaths per day

According to National Human Rights Commission, a total of 1,067 people died in custody in the first five months of 2021. Most fatalities, 263, were recorded in February, while most deaths in police custody were registered in March.

Days after mob fury following a custodial death led to the death of a woman police constable in Bihar, the government informed the Lok Sabha that 348 people died in police custody in different parts of the country in the last three years.

At least 17,146 people were reported to have died in judicial and police custody in cases registered in the decade to March 2020.

A suspect arrested by the police and brought to a police station is said to be in police custody, which may last no longer than 24 hours. A person may be held in police custody up to a period of 15 days on the orders of a magistrate.

Judicial custody includes undertrials and convicts.

A report by National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) also shows that 63 per cent of deaths in police custody occur within 24 hours of arrest, before they can be produced in court before a magistrate.

Hardly any convictions

National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT), an anti-torture platform for NGOs, noted that between 2004 and 2018, there have been no convictions of policepersons accused of custodial torture. During this period, 500 cases of death or disappearance of persons remanded in police custody were reported, and 54 policepersons were charge-sheeted.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, in 2017, 33 policemen were arrested while 27 were charge-sheeted. Forty-three police personnel were charge-sheeted but nobody was convicted.

According to the NCRB’s 2019 figures, 85 cases of custodial deaths were reported in the year but no policeman was convicted, though 14 personnel of Gujarat were arrested, and charge-sheeted.

Women ever more unsafe

A parliamentary panel in 2017 expressed concern over the high occurrences of custodial rape cases in Uttar Pradesh, from where over 90 percent of such cases in the country were reported.

NCRB’s official website does not data on this after 2013.

The panel looked at data from 2015 in its report on “Women in Detention & Access to Justice” in which, 95 cases of custodial rape were reported from UP, followed by two cases from Uttarakhand and one each from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.

During 2019, the death of at least four women in police custody was reported, the NCAT said.

Caste also a factor?

Two in three prisoners (69%) and undertrials (65%) in India are from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes or Other Backwards Classes, according to prisons’ data.

Of the 125 deaths in police custody documented by the NCAT in 2019, 60% belonged to poor and marginalised communities, said the report. These included 13 victims from Dalit and tribal communities and 15 Muslims.

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first published:August 09, 2021, 11:29 IST
last updated:August 09, 2021, 13:32 IST