PROVISIONS:Art.21 of Indian Constitution mandates that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. This sacred and cherished right i.e. personal liberty has an important role to play in the life of every citizen. Life or personal liberty includes a right to live with human dignity . There is an in-built guarantee against torture or assault by the State or its functionaries. Chapter V of the Criminal Procedure Code , 1973 in India deals with the powers of arrest of persons and the safeguards required to be followed by the Police to protect the interest of the arrested person. Articles 20(3) and 22 of the Indian Constitution further manifest the constitutional protection extended to every citizen and the guarantees held out for making life meaningful and not a mere animal existence. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 which marked the emergence of a worldwide trend of protection and guarantee of certain basic human rights stipulates in Article 5 that “ No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Despite this pious declaration & the Constitutional & statutory safeguards, the crime continues unabated though every civilized nation & society shows its concern and makes efforts for its eradication.
MEANING & APPROACH OF THE COURTS: The Courts must not lose sight of the fact that death in Police custody is perhaps one of the worst kinds of crimes in a civilized society, governed by rule of law and poses a serious rights of the citizens recognized by the Constitution and is an affront to human dignity. Police excesses and the maltreatment of detainees/under-trial prisoners or suspects tarnishes the image of any civilized nation and the men in ‘ Khakhi’ to consider themselves to be above the law and sometimes even to become law unto themselves. Rarely in cases of police torture or custodial death, there is any direct ocular evidence of the complicity of the police personnel alone who can only explain the circumstances in which a person in their custody had died. Exaggerated and strict adherence to the principle of proof beyond reasonable doubt in police torture cases, often results in miscarriage of justice. Police often give such deaths a colour of suicide or police encounter attempting to protect the erring police officials. In the ultimate analysis the society suffers and a criminal gets encouraged. Tortures in police custody, which of late are on the increase, receive encouragement by this type of an unrealistic approach at times by the Courts.
REMEDIES AGAINST CUSTODIAL DEATHS: It is difficult to comprehend how torture and custodial violence can be permitted to defy the rights flowing from the Constitution. The dehumanising torture, assault and death in custody which has assumed alarming proportions raise serious questions about the credibility of rule of law and administration of criminal justice system. The cry for justice becomes louder and warrants immediate remedial measures. The diabolic recurrence of police torture resulting in a terrible scare in the minds of common citizens that their lives and liberty are under a new and unwarranted peril because guardians of law destroy the human rights by custodial violence and torture and invariably resulting in death. Unless stern measures are taken to check such deaths , the foundations of the criminal justice delivery system would be shaken and the civilization itself would risk the consequence of heading , towards total decay resulting in anarchy and authoritarianism reminiscent of barbarism. The courts must, therefore, deal with such cases in a realistic manner and with the sensitivity which they deserve , otherwise the common men may tend to gradually lose faith in the efficacy of the system of judiciary itself.