Cases of custodial torture are reported at regular intervals. India is yet to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture after the treaty was signed way back in 1997. In April 2008, the UN Human Rights Council recommended India to expedite ratification of the Convention against Torture during India’s human rights records examination under Universal Periodic Review. India accepted the recommendation and stated that the ratification of the Convention is under process.
Four years later, in May 2012, India was again asked by the member states of the UN to expedite ratification of the Convention during India’s second review under the UPR. It failed to honour its commitment. The Prevention of Torture Bill continues to be stuck in the Parliament. India also failed to extend invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture whose request to visit the country has been pending since 1993.
In its report Torture in India 2011, Asian Centre for Human Rights, a prominent human rights organization in the country, states that “there has been no reduction in incidents of torture in India which remains endemic, institutionalised and central to the administration of justice and counter-terrorism measures.”
As per the report, 14,231 persons died in police and judicial custody in India from 2001-2010. Of these, 1504 deaths occurred in police custody. About 99.99% of deaths in police custody can be ascribed to torture and occur within 48 hours of the victims being taken into custody, the report underlined.
The report further added that “these deaths were often passed off as suicides, sudden medical complications, self-inflicted injuries and natural deaths.”
Many of the victims were lucky to have survived custodial torture. According to National Human Rights Commission a total of 2681 persons were tortured in police custody, which has not resulted in deaths, during 2008-2011. This figure is far from accurate. Many of the cases are not reported at all out of fear or some other reasons. Moreover, it is not mandatory for the police or the administration to inform the NHRC about cases of custodial torture not resulting in deaths like the cases of death in custody.
The Constitution of India, the courts and the National Human Rights Commission prohibit torture. However, the security forces disregard these institutions. Torture is still not a crime as it is treated as an inevitable part of investigation.
Torture will continue to be reported in the country as long as India fails to take measures to address it. It is high time the government enacts the legislation criminalizing torture at the earliest and honour its commitment made in 2008 during the UPR examination.
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