Custodial violence means torture in police custody. Torture is no doubt an international phenomenon but the incidents are much more in developing countries and the overall situation in India is far from being satisfactory.
Custodial deaths are perhaps one of the worst crimes in a civilised society governed by the Rule of Law. There are numerous cases where the police officers have misused their powers on the people and toyed with their lives. The police officers, who are regarded as the custodian and guardian of law, have acted in just the contrary manner and have failed to protect the very basic right to life guaranteed by article 21 of the Constitution.
Custodial violence is a matter of concern. It is aggravated by the fact that it is committed by the persons who are supposed to be the protectors of the citizens.
Custodial violence and abuse of police power is not only peculiar to this country but it is also widespread. However, in our country it is considered second to none. It has been a concern of the international community because the problem is universal and the challenge is almost global.
Due to certain unscrupulous activities of a handful of policemen, the esteemed image of police is getting vanished at the speed of knots. We see that the arrested persons, the under trials and sentenced persons are treated in subhuman conditions. The right to know for which offence a person has been detained is frequently breached by the detaining authorities.
Though international laws criminalise torture, torture enjoys unprecedented license in India. Torture seems to be legalised in India. The methods of torture adopted by government officers involve gross forms of inhumanity. In recent years, third degree torture and custodial deaths have become an intrinsic part of police investigations and the injury inflicted on the prisoners is sometimes unbearable. No doubt, the police officers have contributed towards the maintenance of public order and their plans are also enforced with purity, activity, vigilance and description. But more often that, the police officers have been abused and condemned for torturing the public, particularly those who are in custody and detention, and inflicting injuries to their life and property.
In almost every state, there is an increase in frequency of deaths in custody, generally prescribed by the newspapers as lock-up deaths. Newspapers, almost everyday, carry reports of assault, torture, rape, and death of persons in police custody.
This feature has attained such an alarming proportion that it is affecting the credibility of the rule of law and order and also the administration of the criminal justice system. Hence, there is an urgent need to examine the issue in depth to develop criminal jurisprudence and also to make the police officers accountable for their acts and omissions. The Indian Constitution has conferred many rights on the citizen of India and its importance needs no explanation. Hence, the courts as well as the police officers, that is, the Law Enforcement Officers of the State should strive to prevent anyone from committing a breach of the same.
Custodial violence including torture and death in lock-ups strike a blow at the rule of law, which demands that the powers of the executive should not only be derived from law but also that the same should be limited by law.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)