New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Centre over a public interest plea seeking direction to establish guidelines to prevent torture, cruelty, inhuman or degrading treatment of jail inmates. A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice AM Khanwilkar sought the government’s response on the plea filed by former Rajya Sabha MP and senior advocate Ashwani Kumar, who has also sought rehabilitation, relief and compensation for victims of custodial violence and torture.
In his petition, Kumar argued that despite judgment and subsequent guidelines issued by the apex court, the issue of escalating custodial violence has remained unaddressed primarily because of the lack of a comprehensive legal regime and its effective enforcement.
He said there is no legislation in India dealing with custodial violence and torture. As on date, there is no legislation that defines the expression “torture” or “custodial torture”, he said.
He contended that unlike custodial deaths, police are not mandatorily required to report cases of torture that do not result in death to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). According to home ministry data published last year, the number of unnatural deaths of prisoners increased from 126 in 2012 to 195 in 2014.
Kumar also cited another home ministry data published in June this year that said the percentage of deaths of children aged 0-14 in police custody to total deaths in police custody during 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 (up to November 30, 2015) were 7%, 35%, 26% and 21% respectively.
The petition is premised on the fact that India is a signatory of the United Nation Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. But it has not ratified the same in the absence of legislation to that effect.