ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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In the ‘Third Degree’

India desperately needs a law and the enforcement of the existing codes to stop custodial torture.

There is no law at present in India that defines “torture” or recognises “custodial deaths.” The grossly inadequate Prevention of Torture Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2010 and sent to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha. Predictably, its recommendations have been duly relegated to the cold storage along with the bill. In an attempt to revive the law, the chairperson of the committee, former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court in September 2016 seeking prevention of custodial torture. The Supreme Court has directed the union government to explain why there has been such a delay in bringing about a law on prevention of torture.

We are constantly reminded of the urgent need for such a law. For instance, on 19 December 2016, the Bombay High Court rapped the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for conducting probes without “applying its mind” in the case of the custodial death in 2014 of Agnelo Valdaris, who had been arrested for robbery in Mumbai. The CBI claimed that Valdaris committed suicide or suffered accidental death. The high court, however, observed that there was prima facie evidence that Valdaris was murdered. In another case, four police constables were convicted in January 2016 for torture leading to custodial death of Aniket Khicchi in Mumbai.

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