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Brief over view: Custodial Torture

Nov. 09, 2023   •   Mohd Ayaz Raza

  1. Introduction

One of the deadliest types of crimes in a society where the rule of law is upheld, a promise that promises to guarantee every citizen justice, liberty, and equality, is death as a result of "Torture" while in the custody of the police. Such incidents are an insult to human dignity in addition to posing a severe threat to the orderly, civilized society.

Regardless of sex, age, or health, people can be subjected to custodial torture everywhere around the globe. The number of brutal crimes committed against suspects or accused people and inmates by the police, jail staff and other law enforcement organizations is observed frequently.

Prison torture is now so commonplace that everyone, police, government officials, and even the general public underestimate it as a standard police procedure for cross-examination. The result is that the audience is only momentarily stunned by the updates on such an absurd lead. When something horrifying occurs, there is a public uproar. At that same moment, the administration is powerless to do anything else due to the open objection, so they begin to pay attention to the squalor in the prison.

As a result, to effectively address crime, a realistic strategy must be used to establish a balance between individual human rights and social interests Joginder Kumar v. State of Uttar Pradesh[1].

2. Reasons For Custodial Death

2.1. Assault-related death

Police physical abuse did not start to be documented as a cause of death when a person was in custody until 2014. According to data from Crime in India, 33 people (6.1% of the 537 people who died while being held by the police in the previous Eight years, from 2014 to 2019) died as a result of injuries they acquired while being held after being physically assaulted by police. These figures may be higher if illness-related and hospital-related fatalities were included.

2.2. Inadequate Jail Medical Facilities

The India Justice Report[2] (IJR) 2020 said that inmates' health is in danger due to the conditions in jails. According to the Model Prison Manual 2016[3], there should be at least one medical officer for every 300 detainees, and one doctor should always be on call in central prisons. There was a shortage of 50% or more medical officers in 12 out of the 20 states and union territories (UTs) examined in the research report mentioned above.

3. Responsiveness to Custodial Torture

3.1. Constitutional Protection: Several decisions have ruled that a person's basic constitutional rights are not violated just because they are in police custody, being held, or under arrest. If their rights are violated, they have the right to petition the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution.

3.2. Indian Evidence Act, 1872: According to Section 25[4] of the Evidence Act, a confession given to a police officer cannot be used against a person accused of any crime, and confessions induced by threats from a person in authority to avoid any temporary harm would be irrelevant in criminal proceedings, as is among other things, stated in Section 24[5]. Because of this, even though it is not officially forbidden by Indian law, evidence obtained via the use of torture is not recognized in court.

3.3. Code of Criminal Procedure 1973: When a person passes away while in custody, Section 176[6] gives a magistrate the authority to investigate the cause of death. Depending on the jurisdiction of the crime committed, an investigation will be opened and an inquiry held by either the Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate if someone passes away goes missing or is raped while the accused is in custody.

3.4. Indian Penal Code 1860: After the contentious Mathura Rape case[7], Section 376 of the IPC changed. Sec. 376(1)(b)[8] makes police personnel guilty of committing rape while in custody. This modification to the part in question was a good one since it finally denounces the actions of police personnel who abuse their authority. Sections 330, 331, 342, and 348 of the India Penal Code[9] are intended to prevent police officers from employing third-degree techniques that constitute “torture” while they are investigating an offence and have the authority to arrest and question a person.

  1. Landmark Decisions Related to Custodial Death

4.1. Joginder Kumar v. The State Of U.P and Others[10]

The Constitution's Articles 21 and 22(1) include inherent rights that must be recognized and rigorously protected. Hon'ble Court issued the following rules to ensure that these fundamental rights are enforced effectively.

When the arrested individual is transported to the police station, the police officer must tell him of this privilege. The person who received notice of the arrest must be noted in the journal. These safeguards against abuse of authority must be scrupulously upheld as a result of Articles 21 and 22(1)[11]. It was further stated that the magistrate, before whom the arrested individual is brought, should be responsible for ensuring that these conditions have been met.

4.2. J. Prabhavathiamma v. The State of Kerala & Others[12]

The two active police officers were given the death penalty by a CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram after the case was heard there for more than 10 years. The case included the death of a scrap metal business worker, who the court thinks was murdered while in custody. Judge J. Nazar had stated at the sentencing of the two: This is a violent and heinous murder by accused (number) one and two... The accused’s actions will undoubtedly be detrimental to the police department's very institution. It is a risky position if the public loses trust in the institution, which will damage law and order and public order.

4.3.Yashwant and others v. the State of Maharashtra[13]

The High Court of Bombay condemned nine Maharashtra police officers to three years in jail after they were found guilty of causing a death in custody in 1993. The penalty term was increased from three years to seven years each by the Supreme Court, which supported the high court's decision.

The tragic occurrence involving the police, according to Justice N.V. Ramana and MM Shantanagoudar, undermines public trust in the criminal justice system. The court determined that the police officers engaged in the event were guilty of violating Section 330 of the Indian Penal Code by intentionally inflicting harm on the victim in order to coerce a confession.

Due to the nature of the offense committed, the prolongation of the sentence in the winning instance is wholly warranted. It is crucial that the legal procedures outlined by the Constitution be followed by law enforcement organizations. The decision is significant because the Apex Court prolonged the sentence rather than withholding it, setting a precedent that the court would not consider any claims involving violations of human rights.


The UN Convention against Torture should be ratified by India. In addition to reforming the police, there should be rules developed for training officers and instructing them on how to respect the human rights of those being held. Additionally, facilities of confinement should be open to independent and qualified individuals regularly for inspection. To maintain a tight eye on the questioning process, CCTV cameras should be deployed at all police stations, jails, and prisons.

To defend detainees’ human rights, avoid abuse and torture while they are being held captive, and check on their health, NGO members should be permitted to make unexpected visits to jails, detention facilities, and lockups.


[1] Joginder Kumar v State of Uttar Pradesh (1994) 4 SCC 260

[2] Tata Trust, India Justice Report (2020) <> accessed 19 October 2023

[3] Model Prison Manual 2016

[4] Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 25

[5] Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 24

[6] Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, s 176

[7] Tuka Ram & Anr v State of Maharashtra (1978) AIR 185

[8] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 376(1)(b)

[9] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 330, 331, 342, and 348

[10] Joginder Kumar v State of Uttar Pradesh (1994) 4 SCC 260

[11] Constitution of India, art. 21 and 22(1)

[12] J.Prabhavathiamma v The State Of Kerala & Ors (2008) Cri LJ 455

[13] Yeshwant And Ors vs State Of Maharashtra (1973) AIR 337

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