Custodial Violence: Power Misused

Posted on April 20, 2012 in Society

By Madhav Gupta:

Custodial violence is an act of mental and physical torture on the prisoners in custody, basically done by police or the security forces like Army, BSF, and CRPF etc. If you speak to any human rights activist or lawyers, you will end up realizing that custodial violence is an act against human dignity, humanity, and disrespect to the sovereignty of the citizens. All these points make a lot of sense in the today’s world.
But is it really true or do we have a wrong perceptual point of view of the aforesaid topic. Let’s look at few cases.

Case No. 1 – Mr. Nandagopal in Annamalai Nagar was held by 4 policemen on suspicion of theft. “After picking him up on May 30, 1992, the cops kept him in custody for five days where he was beaten to death. The cops also allegedly gang raped his wife Padmini,” the court was told.

Judgement “We are surprised the accused were not charged under Section 302 IPC (murder) and instead the courts below treated the death as suicide. They should have been charged under that provision and awarded death sentence, as murder by police in custody in our opinion comes in the category of rarest of rare cases deserving death sentence,” the Bench observed.

Case No.2 – You may find it funny, but here I would like to take the fictional case being shown in the movie “Maachis” (1996) where the condition in Punjab after Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her security guard was shown and how a young Sikh was taken in custody on some baseless information and treated in a such a way that his body was marred with wounds; he could not walk or talk properly. That was a simple case of how the guardians of the nation act awfully and irresponsibly, and make a mockery of the whole jurisdiction.

Case No. 3– Large number of Muslims and immigrants from other countries being taken in custody by the forces after the 9/11 attack in USA and kept in custody for months on baseless grounds.

Case No. 4– A supposedly terrorist Jafar was held by the Indian Army red handed with an AK-47 in the year 2003 in the Doda district of J&K, after being in the custody of the army he was handed over to the state police. On being asked by a Human right activist, he told “police waale khaana nahi dete thik se, gaali dete hain baar baar, laathi se maarte hai!” (Police doesn’t give me proper food, abuse me every now and then, and hit me with sticks!).

These are just examples. There are at least 100 such cases taking place in each state of our country. The crimes have increased but so have the atrocities done by the Police and the security forces. It should be clear from the aforementioned examples that it’s not the whole force that acts unethically; there are just few bad fishes in the pond spoiling the image of entire institution.

The Supreme Court has warned police personnel that violence in custody will not be tolerated even as it found its hands “tied” for not being able to convict the guilty.

The report shows that taking 2000-2001 as the base year, custodial deaths have increased by 41.66% persons under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government between 2004-2005 and 2007-2008. This includes 70.72% increase of deaths in prison custody and 12.60% increase of deaths in police custody.

Torture is an instrument to impose the “will of the strong over the weak”. Now what we need to understand is that if this power is put into action judiciously, it can work wonders. Cases will be solved faster and we can get to the root cause of the issues easily. But power is also misused to a great extent, courtesy the corrupt politicians and their policemen who serve these politicians.

A lot of laws and acts are being passed by the constitution and various human rights activists are fighting for this. If you look on the internet, you’ll find hundreds of such cases and actions being taken by the government. But, finally, we just need to understand the people who are doing this are humans and it is being done to humans only. Why do you have to be violent on somebody who was just engaged in a fist fight on the street or stole 100 rupees? Why? And why do you have to hit somebody until or unless his/her crime has been proven? Why don’t you just put them in lock-up and leave them alone till trial?

Leave caste, creed, gender, religion aside and just on humanitarian grounds, do not misuse this power. It’s a simple request.