Centre working on law against torture

India has decided to go the full hog and bring in a new law providing for stricter punishment for those involved in incidents of torture.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | New Delhi | Published: February 16, 2009 4:15:31 pm

Almost 11 years after it signed the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel,Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment,the Indian Government has finally initiated steps to have a law to check torture by making it a punishable offence.

Documents accessed by ‘The Indian Express’ reveal that while the signatories to the UN Convention were only obliged to amend prevailing laws to make torture a punishable offence,the Indian Government has decided to go the full hog and bring in a new law providing for stricter punishment for those involved in incidents of torture.

Not only this,the Prevention of Torture Bill,2008,which the Government has drafted also includes torture by Government servants,including police officials,within the ambit of punishable offences.

Under the proposed law,public servants and others responsible for causing grievous hurt or danger to life,limb or health of any person would be liable for being punished for torture. Incidentally,the draft legislation also makes inflicting mental torture a punishable offence.

Public servants torturing anybody for the purpose of extracting information or extra-judicial confession from any accused would also attract penal action under the proposed law.

Torturing anybody on the ground of his race,religion,place of birth,residence,language,caste and community would also be a punishable offence.

The maximum punishment prescribed for torture is 10 years,which,government officials say,is among the highest in the world.

“We are hoping to give the necessary notice to the Lok Sabha Secretariat about our intention to introduce the Bill in the ongoing Session itself. After that,it would a matter of timing before the law becomes a reality,” said a senior functionary associated with the entire process.

India signed the Convention in October 1997,but has not ratified the same despite repeated calls by human rights organisations and NGOs. Ratification is necessary for appropriate changes to be made in the prevailing laws. Once ratified and a new law is in place,it would enable institutions and authorities to be committed and be accountable to tackle instances of widespread torture,especially in police custody.

It would also make it mandatory for the Government of India to submit regular reports to the UN on measures it has taken to implement the convention. The convention also says that persons accused of torture would have to be extradited if an extradition treaty has been signed by member countries.

“We will also set up independent panels to deal with complaints of torture,both at the central level as well as the state level. All complaints in torture matters would automatically be forwarded to these panels,” said the officer.

BULLETS

Officers,individuals involved in physical or mental torture would be liable for maximum punishment up to 10 years

Public servants torturing anybody for extracting information or extra-judicial confession from any accused would also attract penal action under the proposed law

Torturing anybody on the ground of his race,religion,place of birth,residence,language,caste and community would also be a punishable offence.

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