New Delhi: Allegations of “degrading and inhuman treatment, including torture, during police remand” have surfaced in Haryana prisons in a Supreme Court-ordered report on prison conditions in India.
The report, Inside Haryana Prisons, was commissioned by the Haryana State Legal Services (HSLS) in compliance with a 2013 order passed by the apex court in ‘Re: Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons’ and was prepared by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) after interviewing 475 prisoners across 19 prisons in the state.
“Out of 475 inmates that the CHRI team interacted with, 227 (47.78%) said that they had been subjected to degrading and inhuman treatment, including torture, during police remand. Inmate narratives and their testimonies of torture revealed to us details of the methods and techniques used by the police,” the report stated.
The methods of torture included verbal abuse and slapping, as well as more extreme methods such as giving electric shocks, water boarding, sleep deprivation, harm to sexual parts of the body, it added.
The report further observed that “Regrettably, some of these methods (beating the soles of the feet with a baton, water boarding, hanging upside down, and rolling baton on the thighs, giving electric shocks, etc.) don’t leave visible marks on the body, which makes it difficult for victims to prove it.”
One such case of torture was reported by Jasjeet*, who is currently under trial at the Ambala central jail. During the eight days of police custody, Jasjeet was subjected to “severe forms of physical abuse, which included being given electric shocks, repeatedly being beaten with a slipper on his head, and having water forced up his nostrils”.
News18 spoke to Abhishek Jorwal, Superintendent of Police, Ambala, who outrightly denied these allegations.
“There are quarterly and monthly inspections by a High Court-appointed judge; there are visits by the Chief Judicial Magistrate as well. Before the accused is sent to judicial custody, the local police submits a report to the District Magistrate, never has any inmate told them anything. Many inmates sneak in drugs and mobile phones into the prison. They even conduct organized crime from inside the prison. They could say anything they want,” he said.
The official, who has been in charge of the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) unit of the state police since 2017, maintained that when the police interrogates the accused they do not treat them inhumanely. “We feed them, we take their utmost care. There is no form physical violence on the accused like one sees in the movies. But, we do take the interrogation of the accused seriously.”
“Criminals know all ways to escape the scrutiny of the judicial system. So, during police remand we have to put them through tough questioning and cross questioning,” he said.
However, Justice Pramod Goyal of the HSLS, who was closely involved in the making of the report, told News18 that while the allegations of torture have surfaced, it is difficult to validate them at the present stage.
“The allegations are not made with regards to the inmate’s confinement in prison. These allegations are prior to their coming to the prison. The police may say that these findings are beyond the scope of the study. The police may not be ready to give information with regards to CIA staff,” he said.
Prison Conditions and Facilities
The CHRI study was commissioned after the Punjab and Haryana High Court constituted a committee to prepare a framework covering eight key aspects of prisons. Some aspects, which do not meet national and international standards as laid down by the 1894 Haryana Jail Manual, have been highlighted in the report.
In terms of administration and infrastructure, eight of the 19 jails have prison populations well within their official capacity. Overcrowding ranges from 170 per cent in Rewari to 22.8 per cent in Panipat.
Most jails have also given less significance to aspects like health and well-being. While all prison hospitals are equipped with medical equipment, specialised doctors such as dentists, gynecologists, dermatologist, psychiatrists and psychologists remain absent.
The practice of medical examinations at admission into the prison is followed across all prisons in the state. However, “Since only a few prisons use the National Human Rights Commission’s ‘Proforma for Health Screening of Prisoners on Admission to Jail, the inmates complained that injuries resulting from alleged torture would never be documented in the said proformas,” the report noted.
A study into the mulaaqats or visitation hours of family members in prisons revealed that some prisoners are “unable to meet their families because Aadhar cards have been made mandatory as identification proof of visitors and people without these are not allowed.”
The report further posited a list of recommendations based on the findings of the study. Justice Pramod Goyal of the HSLS told News18 that they are in the process of adopting these and an Action Taken Audit has been put in place to initiate that.
“Higher authorities will surely take cognizance of this report. We will send this report to all stakeholders including the police. It will be done within a day or two. Every stakeholder or department will look into the report as per their jurisdiction. We are proposing the audit to ensure that every stakeholder has taken note of the report, has taken action on it and whether the action taken is sufficient,” he added.
*Name has been changed to withhold identity