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Deaths in Custody Highlight Police Violence - Harkeerat Kaur

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

There are a number of George Floyds in India. By every passing day India witnesses a number of deaths, with many of them succumbing to torture in police custody. In India, torture continues to be a favored tool by the police to extract information and confessions or at times just victimize the subjugated sections of the society. The theory of custodial death is everything but new for us Indians. Dating back to the British Raj, even then the people had been dying in police remand or judicial remand. India has been witnessing the violation of basic fundamental rights of the prisoners time and again via coercion or torture to take approving statements, etc.

“Custodial Violence” is not defined under any specific law in India; it is, hence, a combination of the 2 words – ‘custody’ and ‘violence’. Custodial Violence is any kind of violence occurring in the custody of the police, whether legal or not. Deaths in custody are not any kind of out-of-the-way incidents in India; the police in India often use torture as a tool with less or no accountability. Violence may be subtle or extreme like abusing, physical violence, beating, rape or even death; hence Custodial Death is the death under the custody of the police or other authorities. Various sections of IPC (330,331 & 348), Indian Evidence Act (25 & 26), CrPC (76) and of the Police Act (29) were validated to reduce the torture to a huge extent, yet custodial violence still found its way causing huge number of custodial deaths. Prisoners too have human rights and prison torture is the confession of the failure to do justice to man.

We do know about the famous case of George Floyd, India too has its own George Floyds – P Jeyaraj, 60 and J Fenix, 31. The shop owners, Jeyaraj and his son Fenix, were taken into custody, on June 19 2020, for committing a minor offence of keeping their shop open for 15 minutes after the curfew timings. They were kept under custody, beaten overnight and then the next morning, were taken to the hospital before showing them to the magistrate. Fenix died on Monday claiming breathlessness and Jeyaraj died on Tuesday. The Madras High Court has stated that there is sufficient evidence against the police in this case. The deaths of the father-son duo happened soon after the custodial death of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States of America, erupted protests against the use of “excessive force against Black people” and “Black lives matter”. The heartbreaking death of George Floyd has encouraged calls for police reforms in India, and Indians are paying more attention towards such acts by the police on the people under custody.

Custodial Deaths reported by the State Governments to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), {1994-2001}:-

Custodial deaths that are reported in India have exacerbated by 9% from 92 in 2016 to 100 in 2017, as according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data.

Reasons for Custodial Deaths, out of 100 in total (as of 2017) – [1]

1. Suicide – 37

2. Death due to illness/Death in Hospitals during treatment – 28

3. Road Accidents/ Journey Connected with Investigation – 4

4. While Escaping from Custody- 3

5. Injuries persistent during the police custody due to bodily assault by the police – 5

6. Injuries persistent prior to police custody – 1

7. Others - 22

An annual report by India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) claimed that near about 15 cases of custodial violence and torture are reported daily, with almost 9 people dying in judicial custody every 24 hours. It also stated that “it has almost become a routine” to not report such cases or delay in reporting them.[2]

Notwithstanding the fact that every segment of the Indian society feels worried about the increasing custodial violence it has been unabated over the years. Police is the most important arm of the criminal justice system in India. Torture is a ruthless and brutal crime and human rights abuse should never be seen as foreseeable. If the police system is itself relying on torture to extract information from the accused, it seems to be broken and its credibility is nowhere to be found. It is against the law to vehemently extract any sort of confession. The role of the police is crucial in this regard, and they must be trained in such matters pertaining to human rights and prison management. India must not authorize the caucus against torture and other inhuman or cruel treatment, and should firmly put in force the pre-existing laws and guidelines upon arrest and confinement set out in the Code of Criminal Procedure.







6. National Human Rights Commission, Annual Report 2001-2002, Annexure 7, pp.360-361


[1] [2]

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