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SC mandates CCTVs in all the police stations: Custodial Deaths in India

In a welcome move, the Supreme Court has ordered the Centre, states and Union Territories to compulsorily install CCTV cameras with night vision and recording facilities in all police stations and the offices of central agencies like CBI, NIA, ED, NCB, DRI, SFIO and others, to prevent custodial torture.

It has asked state governments to allocate adequate funds for installation of CCTVs and fastened the responsibility of maintaining them to station house officers. It has directed that no part of a police station or areas where interrogations are carried out should be left uncovered.

The apex court has ordered the setting up of human rights courts in each district under the Protection of Human Rights Act to enable custodial torture complaints to be made to these courts.

LEARNING FROM HOME/ WITHOUT CLASSES/BASICS

Deaths of criminal suspects in custody occurs too often in India. In response to this longstanding problem, Indian authorities including the courts and the National Human Rights Commission have set out detailed procedures

The Commission way back in 1995 had asked all the States and Union Territories to

  • Inform the Commission of all custodial deaths within 24 hours of their occurrence and to send all relevant reports including the postmortem examination report subsequently
  • Instructions regarding videography of postmortem examination in respect of death in police custody

 S.50 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr. PC) requires a police officer arresting any person to “ forthwith communicate to him full particulars of the offence for which he is arrested or other grounds for such arrest”.

Likewise, the requirement of production of the arrested person before the court promptly which is mandated both under the Constitution [Article22(2)] and the Cr. PC (Section 57)

Information regarding the arrest and the place of detention should be communicated by the police officer effecting the arrest without any delay to the police Control Room and District / State Headquarters.

The person arrested of the above rights, the police should also inform him of his right to consult and be defended by a lawyer of his choice. He should also be informed that he is entitled to free legal aid at state expense [D.K. Basu’s case (1997) ].  Since incorporated into the amended Code of Criminal Procedure, the rules call for the police to identify themselves clearly when making an arrest; prepare a memo of arrest with the date and time of arrest that is signed by an independent witness and countersigned by the arrested person; and ensure that next of kin are informed of the arrest and the place of detention.

In 2006, the Supreme Court in a landmark decision, Prakash Singh v. Union of India, issued six binding directives to the central and state governments to kick-start police reforms aimed at improving the functional autonomy of the police through security of tenure, streamlining appointment and transfer processes, insulating the police from government’s interference and influence, and enhancing police accountability.

WAY OUT 

  • Strictly enforce existing laws and guidelines on arrest and detention in the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Supreme Court’s D.K. Basu decision, particularly with respect to recording detentions, informing families, producing suspects before magistrates, and providing medical examinations.
  • Ensure that police officers implicated in torture and other ill-treatment, regardless of rank, are disciplined or prosecuted as appropriate.
  • Ratify the Convention against Torture and incorporate its provisions into domestic law.
  • Enact an adequately funded and effective victim and witness protection law.

Constitutional Provisions

Article 21 guarantees the right to life and personal liberty and has been held to include the right to live with human dignity. Even the convicts, under-trials, detainees, and other prisoners in custody cannot be denied this precious right

Article 22 guarantees protection against arrest and detention in certain cases. It provides that no individuals who are arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed of the grounds of arrest and that arrested individuals shall not be denied the right to consult and defend themselves by a legal practitioner of their choice.

Article 20(3) provides that a person accused of an offence shall not be compelled to be a witness against himself or herself.

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