Custodial Death | UPSC

IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 4th July 2020

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” –Anonymous

Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Editorial Hunt is an initiative to dilute major Editorials of leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Here we choose two editorials on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC MAINS 2020.

EDITORIAL HUNT 104 :“Custodial Death | UPSC

Custodial Death | UPSC

Neetika Vishwanath

Anup Surendranath and Neetika Vishwanath are with Project 39A at National Law University, Delhi

      HEADLINES:

Police violence and how some lives do not matter 

      CENTRAL THEME:

As a country, Indians seek accountability selectively because their commitment to the rule of law is not principled.

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2:3:Police Reforms : Judiciary

      MAINS QUESTION:

Custodial torture has been an open secret since colonial era in the shades of rule of law. Discuss -(GS 3)

      LEARNING: 

  • Rule of Law
  • Data on Custodial deaths
  • Legal Burdens

      INTRODUCTION: 

  • RULE OF LAW : Everyone collectively reminding us that we need to keep our police in check, and that we must not tolerate such abuse of police powers while lamenting the lack of ‘rule of law’ in our society.
  • MORAL POLICING : Despite no court having looked into it, we were convinced that they ‘deserved’ to be killed in that manner for what we believed they had done, conveniently blurring the lines between our moral judgment and the limits we must place on police power.

      BODY: 

A DIFFERENT REACTION

  • STAUNCH CRIMINALS : Criminals get a chance be questioned before law , we find ourselves reposing great faith.
  • SIMILAR TO MOB JUSTICE : It literally is a few steps away from mob justice.

THE DATA

  • DUE PROCESS OF LAW : We must be careful not to mistake our reactions in this case as some commitment to the rule of law and due process.
  • NUMBERS ARE HUGE : In the last three years, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), India has received nearly 5,300 complaints of custodial deaths (police and prison) .
  • HURDLES IN PROSECUTION : If reporting such deaths is difficult, the legal process to investigate, prosecute and fix accountability has even more hurdles.

This is evident from the fact that while government data recorded 1,727 deaths in police custody between 2000 and 2018, only 26 police officials were convicted.
 

  • OPEN SECRET : In a country where custodial torture and killing is an open secret, it is baffling that we still do not have a domestic law that enables torture prosecution by accounting for the particularities of custodial torture.

AN ISSUE GLOSSED OVER

  • LEGAL BURDENS : If a person dies in police custody the burden should be on the police to show that they are not responsible for it, the law still requires the prosecution to prove that the police caused the death.
  • UNCAT RATIFICATION : India’s political commitment to address torture is symbolised by its failure to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture, and thereby putting itself in the list of only 19 countries to have not adopted it.

The Supreme Court of India has laid down many measures to prevent torture and fix accountability, but these judgments are rarely followed.

  • MAGISTERIAL INQUIRY : Besides the usual police investigation into a custodial death, the law mandates an independent magisterial inquiry.
  • INSTITUTIONAL APATHY : It is perhaps a reflection of our institutional apathy that such inquiries have happened in only about 20% of custodial deaths.

Prosecution of police officials for custodial torture requires the sanction of the government.

  • MODERNISATION : One of course is that the system incentivises torture by seeking convictions without modernising the police force.
  • HARDENING CRIMINALS ? The use of torture is also often justified by police personnel as being required to teach ‘hardened criminals’ on behalf of society.

      IASbhai Windup: 

  • ACCOUNTABILITY : It reflects a deeply worrying aspect of torture where police unleash violence because they know that the chances of being held accountable are slim.
  • BREEDING CULTURE : There is an institutional and public culture that breeds, protects and even celebrates this kind of violence.

At the heart of that culture is our proclivity to embrace mob justice in situations where we feel it is ‘deserved’.

       SOURCES:   THE HINDU EDITORIAL | Custodial Death | UPSC
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