The Supreme Court today said it cannot direct the government to make a law to prevent torture and inhuman treatment in custody when the government was looking into the issue in “all seriousness” and had decided to adopt the United Nations’ convention on torture. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra referred to the submissions of Attorney General K K Venugopal who said the prayer in a plea with regard to framing of a law to prevent torture and inhuman treatment of individuals in custody was also a subject matter of discussion in the Law Commission.
“The executive is looking at the issue with all seriousness,” Venugopal told the bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud. The bench was hearing a PIL filed by senior advocate and former law minister Ashwani Kumar, who has sought directions to frame an effective law on the issue and empower agencies like the NHRC with necessary enforcement capabilities and mechanisms to implement its orders and directions.
After hearing the submissions of the Attorney General, the bench asked Kumar, “can we direct the legislature to make a law by issuing a writ of mandamus?” “They are saying that they are looking at it with all seriousness,” the apex court said, adding, “can we direct the government to adopt a particular UN convention and make a law?”
Kumar asked the bench to keep the matter in abeyance for a month or two to see how things move on legislation front. But the bench did not agree to the submission and disposed of his plea in wake of the arguments advanced by Venugopal. The petitioner had earlier told the court that despite being a signatory to the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture, 1997, India has not ratified the convention so far since ratification required an enabling legislation to reflect the definition and punishment for ‘torture’.
Kumar, a senior Congress leader, had contended that the Centre should have a comprehensive and stand-alone legislation against torture. The plea had sought a direction to the Centre to ensure an effective law and its enforcement to fulfil constitutional promise of human dignity and prevention of custodial torture.
It had sought the issuance of guidelines for timely and effective investigation of complaints of torture and custodial violence and directions be given to the government for rehabilitation and compensation for the victims. The government had earlier said a writ petitioner cannot seek a legislation through the court as the issue fell under the domain of the executive and the legislature.
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