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Govt to table anti-torture Bill

Last updated: 16 April, 2010
B S Arun NEW DELHI, April 16, DHNS 23:02 IST

Move to bring down custodial deaths; guilty to face 10 years imprisonment

The Centre plans to bring down custodial deaths by enacting a new law that will define torture and determine punishments to offenders.

The legislation, likely to be introduced in Parliament next week, is aimed at harmonising Indian law with United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which India is a signatory.
The Bill is considered necessary to ratify the Convention.

The draft Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, a copy of which has been accessed by Deccan Herald, says: “Any person, being a public servant or abetted by a public servant or with the consent of a public servant, intentionally obtains confession which causes grievous hurt or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of any person, will be regarded as guilty of torture.”

Persons thus found guilty will be punished with up to 10 years of imprisonment with a fine. For the offence to be made cognisable, the complaint should be filed within six months of the offence committed.

However, in case of those accused being employees of the Union or state governments not removable from his office, previous sanction is necessary for prosecution.

The draft bill was recently cleared by the Union Cabinet, but had been pending as the government weighed its options between introducing the new legislation or effect changes to the Indian Penal Code and the Evidence Act. However, it eventually decided in favour of the new law to speed-up anti-torture measures.

The Bill was brought to cabinet after lengthy examination by the Law Commission of India and the attorney general. It also comes in the backdrop of allegations of torture of innocent villagers as well as rights violations in all insurgency-hit areas, including Jammu and Kashmir, by the police and para-military forces.

Custodial deaths

A New Delhi-based rights group recently said the number of custodial deaths in the country had increased by 41.66 per cent in the last five to six years.

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) in its report, “Torture in India 2010,” said taking 2000-01 figures as the base year, custodial deaths have increased by 41.66 per cent between 2004-05 and 2007-08.

This includes 70.72 per cent increase in deaths in prison custody and 12.60 per cent increase in deaths in police custody.

“It is the common people who are mainly tortured and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. However, the UPA government has failed to address the violations of the rights of the “aam aadmi” (common people),” said ACHR director Suhas Chakma, while releasing the report.

State-wise figures

Between 1999-2009, Maharashtra had the highest number of custodial deaths (246) followed by Uttar Pradesh (165), Gujarat (139), West Bengal (112), Andhra Pradesh (99), Tamil Nadu (93), Assam (91), Punjab (71), Karnataka (69), Madhya Pradesh (66), Haryana (45), Bihar (43), Delhi (42), Kerala (41), Rajasthan (38 cases), Jharkhand (31 cases), Orissa (27 cases) and Chhattisgarh (23), the report said.

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