Increasing rate of custodial deaths in India

In India, we claim our self free and fair nation, however ever increasing continuous custodial deaths put question mark over this claim. Every week, it is very common to hear about number of cases where innocent people die due to custodial harassments in Police lockups. Even after 60 years of the independence still all the Indian government departments are working in the similar fashion with out dated rules and regulations.

Indian police and judiciary system are also suffering from the similar problems. Most of the state polices in India lack modern trainings and are highly involved with wrong practices. Torture is the only way available with the police to find the clues from the victims. In some cases, third degree and simply worst kind of the torture is forced on the people whom some people find difficult to resist and die due to this unbearable pain. The apathy of this whole system is that most of the people who die in custodial deaths are innocent.

This kind of straight murder of the people of India by the police of India is a clear sign of no protection of basic human rights in India. Even these kinds of tortures are not permitted against the prisoners of the wars during or after wars by the international laws. Now if common Indians are defied of these kinds of the rights then this is state of clear mockery of ruling class in India which is unwilling to bring any positive changes in India. If still after 60 years of getting freedom, free Indians go on dying due to the harassments of their protectors then this is not a real freedom for which million of people gave their lives.

Jai Hind

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  1. Hi Arvind,

    Your article 'Increasing rate of custodial deaths in India' is a real eye opener. Keep it up Buddy :)

  2. Proposal for North India Regional Consultations in New Delhi

    First note from John Dayal:

    Towards a National Registry of Custodial and Fake Encounter Deaths
    28 July 2007

    Dear Friends

    Several of us deeply concerned at the once again increasing number of custodial deaths and fake encounters by security forces have been feeling the need of a National Registry for such deaths so as to make the NHRC, NCM, SC Commission, the Government of India and the Judiciary get to understand the magnitude of the problem and take preventive and remedial measures.

    A recent conference by CHRO of Kerala in Mumbai brought many like-minded people together, together with some of the victims and relatives of victims. Some activists met in private in New Delhi recently to further explore possibilities of larger consultations so that such a registry can be
    brought into existence at the earliest.

    I and some friends have proposed a consultation of activists and experts in the North India region on this issue. This is actually a national consultation, but at this stage we cannot identify financial resources to talk about a large meeting over two days.

    That may become an eventuality. But even if it does not, a smaller one day meeting is possible in
    Delhi. I am circulating this note so that we can think about such a meeting. Those involved at the very initial stage include Advocate Ashok Agarwal, Dr John Dayal, Dr Yogi Island, and Anil Chamaria.

    Please do revert to me on this issue so that we can start the process of organizing this meeting sometime towards middle of September or early October, and perhaps have necessary papers ready for advocacy in the Winter session of Parliament and in the NHRC and courts.
    Interconnected issues of Right to Information, Impunity and Command Responsibility will also be part of the agenda of the consultations.

    Once the initial responses are in, we will create a googlegroup for continuing communication and exchange of ideas and information.

    John Dayal

    2. Response from Sikh Group, USA
    Dear John,
    We are very appreciative of your continuing efforts to mitigate the suffering of the ordinary people at the hands of unlawful activities of Indian security police and forces. But I really feel that you are very late. Had you and other like minded people started this kind of efforts during 1980's and 1990's when such of activities by the police were at the height of custodial killings and fake encounters in Punjab, and had you all had been successful in getting the world's attention to such activities of largest Democracy, the present conditions would not have arisen. The evil would have been nipped in the bud. But now all these security forces have been embolden to such an extent that it would be very much more difficult to control it.
    Any how I do feel that your effort in this regard is praiseworthy although very late. You will have our support and would like to help you all in this effort. With the new technology of internet world is getting smaller and smaller and we can communicate with each other LIVE even if we are in different continents.
    We have started new TV LIVE Programs on the internet, which is 24 hours 7 days a week and is viewable throughout the world. You can access it by going to and/or and clicking on either of two TV channels. Please let me know how we can help you. Keep up the good work.
    M. S. Chawla
    Producer, 24 Hours Live TV Stations on the web & Winner of Telly Award and The Accolade Competition "PASSION FOR TRUTH" TV "PUNJABI COMMUNITY HOUR" TV

    3. JD Response to Mr. Chawla

    Dear Chawla sahib
    Good to be in touch again
    My writings of the period show my credentials for themselves. My writings after the 1984 genocidal killings of Sikhs in Delhi and other places also speak for themselves.
    It is because of the work of human rights groups, particularly by Ram Kumar Narayan, Ashok Agarwal and others that there has been a semblance of justice in court cases relating to those events.
    It is an ongoing battle, and i am part of it.
    God bless you.
    John Dayal

    3 Response from Rajendra Sail, Jaipur

    Dear John,
    This is a good proposal. In Chhattisgarh, we are experiencing an alarming rise in fake encounters. The Chhattisgarh PUCL chose this as its theme for the State Convention in Mid-April 2007: FAKE ENCOUNTERS, FAKE SURRENDERS AND FAKE CASES.
    Recently, the Supreme Court has also been apprised of this situation, and it has issued notices to centre and the states about following the NHRC guidelines in this regard.
    We are ourselves documenting such cases, and would definitely join the Conference, as and when it is convened.
    More on it when we meet in Delhi later next week.
    As always,
    Raju Sail

    4. Response from Adv Ashok Agarwal


    Dear John and everyone else.
    Sorry John that I have not responded to your earlier mail.
    I have been thinking about the national register of custodial killings idea. Posing difficulties, trying to see a way around them. I will share some of my thoughts/ ideas.
    The desirability is unquestionable, so I will not try to justify the idea. I will start with the issues straight away.
    As a preface I must say that till now all (or most) efforts to build networks of the human rights kind have not worked in India. Since our idea requires networking, it is important to understand why.
    Coming now to the issue.
    Some information about custodial violence/ killings is available on the net, from the national crime records bureau (NCRB). Of course this is old information (and very incomplete), for previous years but looking at it tells us that the state is gathering this kind of information. The last year for which data is available is 2005. Since gathering the information is crucial to our venture, we should try to find out whether current information is also available through the NCRB.
    The NCRB information is based upon FIRs that are registered by the police. But we have no idea what percentage of cases get registered. It seems to me that this percentage cannot be very high. The only way to have a better coverage is through a network of activists and reporters at the grass root level. We could also enlist the news media, both print and electronic. Regional newspapers and TV networks now cover every nook and cranny. In addition we can consider tying up with SHRCs (where they are functional) and the NHRC (if it agrees) for access to the complaints that they receive. It is likely that at least some of these complaints will be genuine even though no FIR is registered by the police.
    The next stage would be the processing of the information that comes in. I think it would be best if the processing takes place simultaneously at more than one place. This would allow us to work without a dedicated establishment, to begin with. We could allocate the work to the people involved in this task by dividing the cases area wise.
    Processing would involve looking at the information that comes in, forming a preliminary view on its credibility, formulating supplementary questions and eliciting answers to them, collating information from other sources and, finally, preparing a short brief of the case.
    The brief would have to go to some sort of a validation committee, which is independent of the information gathering process. These committees (There should be at least 4, 1 for each region) should comprise a mix of professionals and well known personalities, with high order credibility. These committees would be required to look at the cases afresh, in order to verify the correctness of the charge. For this purpose they could use whatever means necessary/ available, including sending a fact finding team.
    Once the case has been passed by a validation committee it can be entered into the register.
    A couple of additional points before I move on.
    1. I think, cases of enforced disappearance should also be added to this register. They can be listed separately. I say this because there can be no gainsaying that most cases of enforced disappearance are also cases of custodial killing.
    2. We will need to address ourselves to the question of what do we do with this information/ register.
    Each of the stages that I have spelt out poses a distinct set of problems. The first, information gathering, stage requires us to have a comprehensive network. Since the reporters of custody death cases will form the bedrock of this edifice, thought will have to be devoted to making this network work. The reporters are also likely to face a degree of risk to life and limb. This too will need to be addressed. Most importantly, in my opinion the network will work if all its members feel they have a stake and, that the network belongs to them and, works for them. Therefore, it is essential that the national register of custody deaths should not be seen as being controlled (and used) by some people in the big cities, particularly Delhi.
    I think I will stop here. I think we can make this idea work and, with very little money.
    Warm regards

    5. Email from Maja Daruwala

    Aug 10, 2007
    Dear John and everyone else: I think this is a very good idea but it could be done in phases so that it was not so ambitious in the beginning but built year on year on its credibility from the last year. I apologise for missing some of the previous discussions, John do you have a comprehensive picture for this idea in an earlier mail.
    Maja Daruwala.
    Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
    B-117, First Floor, Sarvodaya Enclave, New Delhi, INDIA, 110017
    Tel No 91 11 26864678:26850523 (O)
    Tel No 91 11 26868961 (H)
    Fax No 91 11 26864688 (O)

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    6. Email from From: C. R. Bijoy <>
    Date: Aug 17, 2007
    Some immediate comments:
    On the technical side of the kind of information categories, information, validation etc that you have pointed out are indeed relevant with regard to operationalization.However, I did not find anything in the mails you sent (perhaps there were other mails that may have dealt these) as to the precise purpose that the National Registry serves. The following seems to me to be the obvious objectives for the exercise to create a National Registry.

    (a) Act as a deterrent to further custodial deaths/encounter killings/disappearances by the state;
    (b) Act as a source of strength / motivation to democratic human rights organizations and activists in various regions across the country in taking up custodial deaths / encounter killings / disappearances as an issue of specific focus by challenging, and responding to such incidences thereby attempting to keep the State on check;
    (c) Act as a source to strengthen regional and national coordination and cooperation on custodial deaths/encounter killings/disappearances as these are matters that fall within the purview of both the state and the centre as both their forces are involved;
    (d) Act to develop the process thus initiated to ensure that the custodial deaths/encounter killings/disappearances become a national political issue/agenda of urgency;
    (e) Act to provide and take forward to reform the law and order machinery, the military machine and the judicial institutions from the present role as perpetrators and defenders of perpetrators to that of defenders and protectors of life and liberty.
    There could perhaps be more which could be added. These are very obvious objectives besides being simply logical. Naturally the creation of such a Registry has to be to ensure the elimination of custodial deaths/encounter killings/disappearances or at least their progressive minimisation. Therefore, the strategy of working towards the creation of this National Registry ought to be through a process that could potentially fulfill the above minimum/essential agenda.
    There are three essential features to be considered. What is to be done, who are to do them and how are they to be done? All these questions are to be answered keeping in mind and based on objective/purpose of the task as stated in (a) to (e) above.
    If the above is agreeable, then these basic objectives ought to constitute the very basis for the emergence of the discussion and elaboration on the idea of National Registry itself. The objectives quite explicitly require a bottom-up approach even at the outset for the first stage of actual Conceptualization of the National Registry, its content and method. It is elementary then that the very basis for this first stage would be to begin with those 'out there' who respond and act in case of custodial deaths/ encounter killings/disappearances for it is they who constitute the core to make the Task possible in all ways as well as the basic structure for defense and protection of life from the State.
    I stop here before proceeding further. You will notice that I have added custodial deaths along with encounter killings/disappearances for obvious reasons. Looking very much for your reactions to the above. Will continue the elaboration if this makes sense.


    Fake encounters, custodial deaths: SC issues notices

    30 July 2007

    The Supreme Court has issued notices to the Centre, all States and Union Territories and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on a petition seeking directions to the Government to frame a transparent National Policy to deal with the cases of fake encounters and custodial deaths in the country.
    A bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice R V Raveendran issued notices after hearing the counsel for the petitioner, who contended that there are no State Human Rights Commission in several states and there is no mechanism to deal with the cases of fake encounters and deaths of people in police custody due to torture and beating.
    The petitioner M Ramesh Reddy has also sought direction to the Government to frame a uniform statutory policy/scheme in consultation with NHRC for monitoring, investigating and evaluating encounter deaths in India.
    The petitioner has also prayed for appointing a monitoring committee to look into the cases related to police encounters during the last ten years in different parts of the country and action taken by the authorities concerned in that regard.
    The petitioner has pleaded with the Court to issue an appropriate writ to the authorities concerned regarding the action taken in relation to the guidelines framed by this Court from time to time as well as the guidelines issued by NHRC through its letter dated December 12, 2003. (UNI)

    Case study of Delhi:

    Pooja Talwar Prof. M Mujtaba Khan, Department of Political Sc., Jamia Millia Islamia

    The quality of nation civilization can be largely measured by the respect it shows for the protection and promotion of human rights. The theme of human rights is of universal concern and it cuts across all ideological, political and cultural boundaries. It is for this reason that linkages between institutions relating to the protection of human rights between the countries are important.

    An attempt has been made in the present thesis to understand the causes of the violation of human rights in India. To identify the reasons of occurrence of custodial violence and its effect on police image and people’s participation in police. The study is analytical and descriptive in its nature.

    India has made the most sincere efforts for the protection and promotion of Human Rights the world over and is the greatest champion of the human rights in the Third World The impact of the universal Declaration of Human Rights on the drafting of Human Rights Chapters (Part III and IV) in the India Constitution.

    However, the fact remains that there is a wide gap between theory and practice. All that is preached is not always put into practice and India is no exception. The denial of fundamental freedoms and human rights by the states creates the conditions of social and political unrest. It definitely sows the seeds of violence and conflicts within and between societies and nations.

    Police atrocities are a common feature of Indian scenario. Some of the common feature of violations of human rights are the torture of arrested persons, the disappearance of suspects who ought to have been in regular police custody, deaths in fake encounters and at police stations, and undertrials denied in jails for years without trials. Extensive societal violence against women; female bondage and prostitution; trafficking in women; child prostitution, trafficking, and infanticide; discrimination and violence against indigenous people and scheduled castes and tribes; and widespread exploitation of indentured, bonded, and child labour. The statue book is presently disfigured by laws like Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act, the National Security Act, and the armed Forces Special powers Act, which need closer scrutiny. Such laws make a mockery of human rights.

    To research the issue of custodial violence in India is considerably difficult. The Indian government has consistently prohibited independent human rights organizations from investigating allegations of torture in the country. These groups include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch-Asia, the International Red Cross, the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group, and even the UN Human Rights Rapporteurs (India is obliged to permit access under the conditions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). Moreover, it has also consistently refuted many of the allegations that it permits torture, and it has, unconvincingly, stated that all those found to have practiced torture have been quickly and sufficiently punished.

    Custodial violence, including torture and death in the lock-ups, are committed under the shields of "uniform" and "authority" between the four walls of a police station, lock-up and prison, where the victims are totally helpless. Police is, no doubt, under a legal duty and has legitimate right to arrest a criminal and to interrogate him during the investigation of any offence but the law does not permit use of third degree methods or torture of accused in custody during the interrogation and investigation with a view to solve the crime. End cannot justify the means. The interrogation and investigation into a crime should be in a true sense purposeful to make the investigation effective.

    The custodial deaths are neither usual nor unknown. Such deaths take place not only in India but also in various other countries. These deaths definitely lead to custodial violence. There are various reasons for the custodial violence some of them are: -

    Firstly, the growing political interference in the day-to-day working of police has turned the force into becoming the agents of the party in power. Secondly, a part of the problem also lies in the aggressive enforcement of law and order as a quick-fix solution to the problem of rising crime, without tackling the root causes for the increase in crime. Thirdly, there has been a malfunctioning of our criminal justice system. The basic criminal law in the country is made up of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Evidence Act. The fact that criminal justice system in India is in shambles because it is archaic, obsolete and oppressive in its nature. This is because of unhelpful laws like easy release of bail even to the desperate and dangerous criminals, delays in court trials, which result to the over-loading of court etc. All these definitely erode the public confidence in the legal process. Fourthly, the lack of proper infrastructural facilities – The absence of separate female lockups in many police stations has made it unsafe for women accused persons for detention at the police station after their arrest. Fifthly, due to the absence of proper supervision of the senior level officials, the junior level officials tend to violate the rights of the citizens. Sixthly, Obsolescent and outdated organisational system – One of the most important reasons for the inability of the police system is to confirm the demands of the human rights mandate, because of the continuance of an obsolete and outdated organisational system. The heart of the matter is that the basic rule of the police and its structure did not undergo any change. Seventhly, the working conditions of the policemen. According to the lower ranks of police officials, their working conditions are quite pathetic. They are highly dissatisfied with their pay structure. They do not have any fixed hours of work; family accommodation is not available to a majority of them and their promotion prospects are nil. Hence they adopt the short cut methods. It becomes difficult for them to be sensitive towards human rights under these conditions. Eighthly, lack of accountability –As we see, for the past few years, there has been a total lack of control and accountability in the police system. This can be seen in the ambivalent attitude of the police to use third degree methods and the informal detentions.) with the punishment of death or life imprisonment.

    Not all cases of death and injuries of accused persons should be attributed to custodial violence. The deaths may take place in custody because of natural causes (old age, illness etc); non-custodial use of force by police like handling a riotous mob; accidents or suicide during custody. Although the police does not normally have any direct responsibility incase of natural, accidental, suicide, or other deaths as discussed above. Still, they are being held responsible for their negligence and for not providing the medical aid.

    The time of the need is to create a climate of respect for human rights, not only in the police, but the society at large – people, press, politicians, bureaucrats. In view of the discussion aforesaid, the following steps are considered necessary to effectively combat custodial violence in our country. First, the attitudinal change in the police from grass root level to the senior supervisory level and also to promote professionalism and to develop consciousness about the limitations of their power, authority and responsibility. Second, Organisational behaviour is largely the outcome of training and continuing education. Police training is archaic in content and methods. The emphasis is still more on muscle than on the mind. Human rights, if at all, form an insignificant module in the training programme and there is hardly any emphasis on human rights in the training of constables, who form 85 percent of the force. Respect for human rights is not rewarded. Hence, the education and training should be imparted to police officers at all levels, in order to sensitise them about the primacy of human rights. Third, create a strong public opinion against all forms of custodial violence. Fourth, making use of scientific aid and investigation Fifth, The National Police Commission has recommended that every state government should nominate Additional Session judge for every district (in consultation with high courts) to conduct a judicial inquiry in all cases of alleged rape of a women in police custody, death or grievous hurt caused to a person in police custody and death of two or more persons from police firing in the disposal of an unlawful assembly and submit report to the State government who shall punish the report together with action taken thereon within two months of the receipt of the report. Unfortunately no action has been taken in pursuance of this recommendation. The actions should be taken in order to control custodial deaths in our country. Sixth, another important measure to avoid custodial violence is to make the criminal justice system more effective. Seventh, The State Human Rights Commission should be made more financially strong. Eight, senior police officials should not protect police functionaries at all when they are found guilty in the custodial crimes. Ninth, the guilty officials should be meted out with stringent punishments. Tenth, in order to stop the short-cut methods used by policemen, the government should allot ample of money on their training and also provide them with modern technology. Eleventh, there should be improved supervision on the working of police stations, particularly with regard to investigations and interrogation, which should be done by the investigating officers personally. Twelfth, the police should not succumb to pressures exerted by the politicians. Thirteen, women police should interrogate the women detainees only. Fourteen, there should be more transparency in the police system as well as in the findings of magisterial inquest.

    Though these recommendations could solve most of the problems in relation to custodial violence and deter public officials from indulging in violence, only if the Will to eliminate violence becomes the basic requirement.

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