Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Custodial Violence

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NCRB

Mains level : Paper 2- Police reforms

Context

Earlier this month, Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana expressed concern at the degree of human rights violations in police stations in the country. He said that “the threat to human rights and bodily integrity is the highest in police stations”

Deaths in police custody

  • Improvement in the situation: A reality check shows that the picture is not so bleak and efforts are being made to improve the human rights protection regime in police stations.
  • National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data reveal that though the number of custodial deaths varies year to year, on average of about 100 custodial deaths have taken place every year between 2010 and 2019.
  • Of them, about 3.5 persons allegedly died due to injuries caused by policemen.
  • A judicial inquiry, which is mandatory for every suspicious custodial death, was conducted in 26.4 cases.
  • Though every death in custody needs to be prevented, suspicious deaths which bring disrepute to the police system must be rooted out completely.

Measures to reduce the instances of custodial violence

1) Reduce the number of arrests

  • As per the law, arrest for offences punishable up to seven years of imprisonment should be made only when such arrest is necessary to prevent the person from tampering with evidence, or committing any further offence, etc.
  • The Supreme Court held that each arrest must be necessary and justified; having the authority to arrest is alone not sufficient.
  • In Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar (2014), it was held that despite the offence being non-bailable under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which relates to torture for dowry, arrest is not mandatory as per Section 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
  • In Special Action Forum v. Union of India (2018), the Court further held that the police officer shall furnish to the magistrate the reasons and materials which necessitated the arrest for further detention of the accused.
  • The purpose of these checks is to ensure that the police does not abuse the power of arrest.
  • NCRB data show that the ratio of the number of arrests to the number of IPC offences has decreased from 1.33 in 2010 to 0.96 in 2019.

2) Separate investigation from law and order

  • The National Police Commission (1977-81), the Law Commission in its 154th report (1996) and the Malimath Committee Report (2003), and the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh v. Union of India (2006), have recommended that the investigating police should be separated from the law-and-order police to ensure better expertise in investigation.
  • It is believed that a separate wing will do more professional investigation and will not use unwarranted methods to extract confession from the accused.
  • Though efforts have been made by some States in this direction, more resources are required in policing to implement the Court’s directions.

3) Increase the number of investigating officers

  • Unless investigating officers are increased in proportion to the number of serious offences, the quality of investigation may suffer.
  • The Malimath Committee’s recommendation that an investigating officer should preferably investigate no more than 10 cases every year needs to be implemented.
  • Subject expert officers: With the increase of newer types of crime like white collar crime and cybercrime, subject experts are needed to assist the police in the investigation.

4) Sensitise Police

  • The police officers must know that their mandate is to protect human rights and not violate them.
  • They need to be sensitised regularly and encouraged to employ scientific tools of interrogation and investigation like the lie detection test, narco test and brainfingerprinting test.

5) Display board on human rights

  • The CJI’s suggestion to install display boards on human rights to disseminate information about the constitutional right to legal aid and availability of free legal aid services may deter police excesses.

Steps taken to deal with the issue

  • Much has changed in the police consequent to the judgment in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1996) in which the Supreme Court laid down guidelines to check custodial torture.
  • Guidelines incorporated in CrPC: Most of these guidelines such as providing information to a friend or relative about the arrest, medical examination, and permission to meet a lawyer have now been incorporated in the CrPC.
  • CCTV Cameras installed:  In Paramvir Singh v. Baljit Singh (2020), the Supreme Court has directed States to cover more area of each police station under CCTV cameras and have storage facility of audio-video recording for 18 months.
  • Actions against guilty:  NCRB data show that on average about 47.2 criminal cases were registered annually against policemen in last 10 years.
  • Departmental action against errant officers is a rule in the police force, rather than an exception.
  • Compensation by NHRC: The National Human Rights Commission also oversees deaths in custody due to human rights violations and recommends compensation in appropriate cases.
  • Incentives linked with police reforms: The Home Ministry has recently linked the ‘police modernisation scheme’ with police reforms.
  • Unless sufficient action is taken by the State governments and the police authorities, incentives in the form of additional funds will not be released.

Consider the question “Human right violations in police stations is a cause for concerns. What are the reasons for such violations? Suggest the measures to curb it.”

Conclusion

Our commitment to the protection of human rights is unconditional and total. Many steps have been taken so far to check custodial violence and no stone shall be left unturned to eliminate such violence in toto.

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