A petition has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking framing of guidelines to prevent torture, death and rape in police custody by filling legal lacunae so as to secure the right to life and human dignity.
The PIL comes amid growing cases like the alleged custodial torture and the subsequent death of a father-son duo in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, last month that shocked the nation.
Jayaraj and his 31-year-old son Bennicks were picked up by the police at Tuticorin for keeping their mobile accessories shop open during the lockdown on June 19 and they succumbed to injuries allegedly received during their custody.
The PIL, likely to come up for hearing in the coming days, sought a direction to the Centre “to form an independent committee monitored by the apex court consisting of members from all the relevant departments /ministries which can review the entire legal framework and find pitfalls in the existing legal framework in order to curb the menace of custodial torture/deaths/rapes, so as to enable rehauling of the legislative mechanisms”.
The petition, filed by an NGO, claimed that the incident has brought the issue of custodial deaths to the limelight and it is an acute demonstration of a broken criminal justice system and failure to effectively uphold legal protection against police abuse.
“This incident, inter alia, has traumatized all those who respect the rule of law and personal liberty in the country and it underlines afresh the urgent need for institutional correctives within the policing system in this country and the acute need for India to enact a strong law to prohibit and prosecute cases of torture and custodial deaths, in fulfilment of its legal obligations, both national and international, to guarantee protection to right to life,” it said.
The plea said the alleged killings of Jayaraj and Bennicks are a chilling reminder of how the excessive use of force has become a routine in India, resulting in tragic loss of lives.
“It sends an unfortunate chilling message about how broken the system is and the failure of police and political leaders to establish accountability measures for those who are found guilty of custodial crimes.
“It also lays bare brutally what happens to ordinary people who do not know their rights or that custodial violence is not normal behaviour but criminal conduct,” it said.
It added that “We had a historic break from dreadful past when we drafted our Constitution which guaranteed a set of fundamental rights including the most precious right of life and liberty.”
“But, we failed to eliminate the colonial attitude of our police and allowed it to continue with the same archaic law such as The Police Act,” it said.
Citing a report of National Human Rights Commission, the petition claimed that in its annual report of 2017-2018, NHRC received 1,636 intimations concerning death in judicial custody and 148 intimations of death in police custody.