Custodial Violence

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 17, 2022, 10:33

Custodial violence refers to violating human rights in police or judicial custody where the victim is helpless. It includes infliction of physical pain and psychological harm to those under custody. Death, rape, and torture are some forms of custodial violence.

Brutality is often practised in police stations as a routine procedure to extract truth and sometimes even to manipulate it. However, very few policemen are convicted for custodial deaths. Nevertheless, the National Human Rights Commission, civil society, media, and judicial activists have shown some initiatives to combat custodial violence and uphold human dignity.

Types of Custodial Violence

  • Physiological Violence

Physiological violence is the mental torture given to break the confidence and morale of the victims. It is done by depriving the victim of basic needs such as water, food, sleep, and toilet facilities. The victim may also be coerced to perform activities or witness actions that torture him. Threats and humiliation inflicted on the person in custody or their family members also come under custodial violence.

  • Physical Violence

It includes using physical force to cause disfiguration and exhaustion to people under custody. Sometimes the torture is to such an extent that the victim fears immediate death.

  • Sexual Violence

Sexual violence starts with verbal abuse and humiliation, targeting the victim's dignity. It can result in rape or sodomy.

Statistics on Custodial Violence in India

  • As per the NHRC (National Human Rights Commission), 151 people died in police custody in 2021. Maharashtra reported the maximum deaths (26), followed by Gujarat (21) and Bihar (18).
  • In 2020, 1,569 deaths in judicial custody across the country were recorded by NHRC.
  • A recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report identified suicide, illness, injuries sustained before and during custody, and attempts to escape from custody among the major causes of custodial death.
  • In 2020, the NCAT (National Campaign Against Torture) recorded 55 deaths by suicide due to police torture. This implies more than one suicide per week.
  • The NCAT also recorded the deaths of 18 victims in prison custody due to torture, 51 due to alleged denial of timely and appropriate medical treatment, and 34 cases of suicide in prison.
  • The NCAT observed several torture cases directed towards Dalit and tribal people in police custody.
  • Torture of women in custody, custodial rape of women including two minors, and gang rape were also reported.

Remedies for Custodial Violence

  • Under the Constitution of India

The Constitution of India recognizes prisoners' rights and dignity as citizens of India. Articles 14, 19, 20, 21, and 22 guarantees these rights. Article 21 provides protection from torture, a fundamental right under the Indian constitution.

  • The National Human Rights Commission

The NHRC provides detailed guidelines on pre-arrest, during arrest, and post-arrest procedures, along with the principle of enforcement of the guidelines.

  • The Code of Criminal Procedure

Section 41 of the Code amended in 2009 includes safeguards under sub-section 41A, 41B, 41C, and 41D for persons in custody. The amendment ensures that arrests and detentions for interrogation have reasonable grounds and documented procedures. Also, the arrests should be made transparent to family, friends, and the public. Further, protection should be granted through legal representation.

  • The Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Section 25 and 26 of the Indian Evidence Act provide that a confession made by an accused to a police officer or in police custody shall not be proved against. It has to be made in the presence of a magistrate.

  • Indian Police Act, 1861

Section 7 and 29 of this act provide that a police officer violating constitutional and statutory provisions shall be liable to dismissal, penalty, and suspension.

Custodial violence is a grave reality in India. The government must create proper accountability inside custody to bring such violence to an end.

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FAQs on Custodial Violence

Q.1. What is custodial violence?

Custodial violence refers to brutality and violence in police or judicial custody.

Q.2. Who records the cases of custodial violence in India?

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) record the cases of custodial violence in India.

Q.3. What are the causes of custodial violence in India?

The absence of strict laws, tremendous pressure on the police, and no substantial prison reforms are some reasons behind custodial violence in India.

Q.4. Which articles of the Indian Constitution provide protection against custodial violence?

Articles 14, 19, 20, 21, 22 of the Constitution provide protection against custodial violence.