February 7, 2020
Md Nadimul Haque raises the demand for an Anti-Torture Bill
Recent national-level surveys on the policing in India shows that three out of personnel believe there is nothing wrong with beating up criminals and four think it is okay to bash them up to extract a confession. In 2017-18, NHRC reported 144 cases of death in police custody and 1530 deaths in judicial custody. Furthermore, NCRB reports state that undertrials and even convicts are tortured in prisons across the country.
India signed the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture in 1997, even though the absolute prohibition against use of torture has long been established as a fundamental principle in law. Signing means the country has, in principle, agreed to move forward to ensure that the practice of torture is entirely eliminated in its country. But ratification, the next step, obligates countries to pass laws that reflect the articles in the UN law. For 22 years, ratification has been left pending.
A specific anti-torture law is the need of the hour. It needs to be detailed, comprehensive and conform to international standards.
It will need to have a broad descriptive definition of torture that includes:
2. make it easier to prove
3.fix responsibility not only on the perpetrator but on those who allow it to happen under their watch
4.make punishment more stringent especially where there has been sexual violence and ensure the state compensates and cares for its victims.
It must also bypass Section 197 of the CrPC which requires permission before public servants can be prosecuted for actions done in the course of duty.
Sir, this Anti-Torture Bill is especially important given the brutality of police violence that we have been witnessing over the last few years since 2014. Students, women and children have not been spared as the police repeatedly exploit this lacunae in the law to beat the people into suppression. Minority and backward communities are being targeted both inside prisons and on the streets. We must remember that the police force exists to protect us from harm and not cause it themselves.
Therefore, I would urge the government to consider the adoption of an anti-torture bill to net uniform standards of policing and prisoner rights in the country.