Prisoners and Human Rights: Custodial Death in India



Once a person loses his senses and acts aggressively either intentionally or due to heated environment or as to satisfy a grudge or any such act that constitutes a crime, the society demands that, the very person must not be given any human rights. He must be deprived of all the comforts and the calm as a punishment for the immoral act he performed, right until the law formally punishes him for the same.


The person who committed the crime must not be treated like any other normal innocent person is something majority of us may agree to. Like, we might agree with the thought that he must not be allowed to entertain the rights like moving around freely, but unless the law decides death as the punishment for the convicted, is it moral for the police to torture him to death when in custody?


India reports numerous cases of custodial deaths, but nothing so stringent has been implemented so far as to completely forbid or put a stop on this immoral step often taken by Police Force in India. The prisoners and people who are under- trials are often tortured by the officers to get confessions from them about the relevant case or any other such event. Now, even if one has committed a crime, the person still has the right to live until the court of law declares capital punishment for the convicted.


The term ‘torture’ means ‘the action or practice of causing someone severe harm or pain as a punishment or to make them say something against their will’. There are prisoners who have committed heinous crimes and deny confessing the same to the court, so the police choose to torture them physically or mentally so that the pain frustrates them or hurts them enough to beg for relief and makes them confess the truth. But the law and the officers here, fails to understand that torturing someone so much that the harm kills them either for a trivial matter or a serious one, will not help them receive the confession.


The method of torture for acceptance of the crimes and killing them eventually while doing so, has always been an immoral act by the Police Officers and are yet not taken seriously. Miserably, the use of word torture in a normal person’s life and a prisoner’s life has increased to a peak level. It is something so grievous in nature and is being constantly reported in increasing numbers that the government or the law is expected to take serious actions on this.


Talking of wrongs as pick-pocketing or breaking some common laws that are commonly not abided by the citizens, no doubt they are still wrong , but the Police, has taken the method of torturing prisoners so casually that at times, people are killed in custody during the questions and answers for these trivial wrongs.


Already, many conventions have been signed to prevent these, national laws are set up against these as well, so definitely it is the heedless response of the government and the law that such custodial deaths are still existing in India.


Even if a human being commits an immoral act, he is still a human being like others. What is different is how immoral, he is in comparison to other moral beings. So, when a person does a crime, the national laws, or the international laws, or the human rights never permits anyone to brutally kill the person convicted in the name of drawing confessions. For a serious crime, he may be hanged till death or die during the years or his imprisonment but custodial death is not something to be ignored and considered poor fate during investigation.


What is so contradictory that the people, whose crimes are already proven, law provides treatment for the unhealthy, sick or unwell prisoners provides bed, food and work to the criminals with a maniac’s mindset and the police, the civil officers, find it appropriate to torture someone to death for a confession? A crime committed in aggression or in a planned way, or as to take a revenge or by a lunatic or by someone of unsound mind is definitely unethical, but when a police officer, who is well known about the laws and rules, ethics and morals kills an innocent or a criminal is much more unethical than a crime. Because a criminal in prison is going to be punished anyway by the law, but for someone whose crime has not been proved yet or a person who might have not been served to death by the law has the right to life, may it be without freedom or may it be without dignity.


However, it is not always about confessions!


Talking about the recent incident in Tamil Nadu, a father and his son were brutally killed in the police custody for , the police was reported of disrespectful remarks by both of them from a person regarding how police forced to close the shops. It is clear that torturing the father and son was not because they opened shops after the hours given by government during the lockdown but for disrespecting the police officers. In order to take revenge or to punish them for the filthy words as said by the third party, they were beaten to death.


The entire state is enraged with the act of the police as this has been highlighted during the lockdown. In these, not so busy days during the lockdown, people are becoming aware of every little incident that happened now and then, but are taken seriously because wrongs like these are being brought to their notice now. For an unethical act to stop, not many are supposed to die, sufficient notice and seriousness to the act, may help building some stringent laws.


Written by: Ms. Pranita Raj, Student, SOA National Institute of Law, Bhubaneswar


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any person or official associated with Legis Orbis. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any person or official associated with Legis Orbis.

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