Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)

Mains level: Police reforms in India

The alleged torture and custodial killing of TN father and son by police last week pointed towards a broken criminal justice system and highlighted the need for police reforms and the ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).

Practice question for mains:

Q.There is an urgent need for reforming the criminal justice system in India in light of rising cases of custodial torture and killings. Comment.

United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)

  • The UNCAT is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the UN and was adopted in 1984.
  • It aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.
  • The convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.
  • Since the convention’s entry into force, the absolute prohibition against torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment has become accepted as a principle of customary international law.

The Committee against Torture (CAT)

  • It is a body of human rights experts that monitors implementation of the Convention by State parties.
  • The Committee is one of eight UN-linked human rights treaty bodies.
  • All state parties are obliged under the Convention to submit regular reports to the CAT on how rights are being implemented.
  • Upon ratifying the Convention, states must submit a report within one year, after which they are obliged to report every four years.
  • The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations.”
  • Under certain circumstances, the CAT may consider complaints or communications from individuals claiming that their rights under the Convention have been violated.

Optional Protocol to CAT

  • The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) was adopted by the General Assembly on 18 December 2002.
  • It provides for the establishment of a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

India needs to ratify UNCAT

  • India signed the convention in 1997 but it remains among a handful of countries including Pakistan and China which are yet to ratify the convention.
  • India is in the company of 25 other nations which have not ratified.
  • The National Human Rights Commission had said custodial violence and torture are already “rampant” in the country.
  • About 1,731 people had died in custody in 2019 a/c to NHRC report.

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