Govt urged to place anti-torture Bill before the Parliamentary Standing Committee-
- 16,836 deaths in custody in 14 years-
New Delhi: Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) while submitting the Report of the National Conference on the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2008 http://www.achrweb.org/reports/india/India-Anti-Torture-Bill-2009.pdf) to the Members of Parliament urged to intervene with the Prime Minister of India to place the Prevention Torture Bill before the Parliamentary Standing Committee after necessary modifications to comply with the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT). The Ministry of External Affairs has drafted the “Prevention of Torture Bill, 2008” in order to “ratify the UNCAT and to provide for more effective implementation.”
Since the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued the guidelines to report custodial death cases within 24 hours in December 1993, the NHRC recorded the custodial deaths of 16,836 persons or an average of 1203 persons per year during 1994-2008. These included 2,207 deaths in police custody and 14,629 deaths in judicial custody.
ACHR asserted that the number of custodial deaths in India have been rising consistently
with 1,037 custodial deaths in 2000-2001; 1,305 in 2001-2002; 1,340 in 2002-2003; 1,462 in 2003-2004; 1,493 in 2004-2005; 1,730 in 2005-2006; 1,596 in 2006-2007 and 1,977 in 2007-2008.
“The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2008 is not intended to address liberal use of torture in India but is a part of window dressing to address international criticisms.” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Convenor of the National Conference and Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.
The National Conference called upon the government of India to expand the definition of torture to conform to the obligations of the UNCAT. Despite the widespread prevalence of custodial death resulting from torture, the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2008 makes no reference to death as a result of torture. The National Conference rejected proposed maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment for torture as highly inadequate given cases of torture to death.
“The law enforcement personnel are entrusted to carry out duties of the state and are empowered with special powers and have higher level of responsibility. Hence the crimes by the law enforcement personnel should be considered more seriously and harsher punishment than what is provided in the Indian Penal Code needed to be given.” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.
The National Conference on the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2008 also rejected the six months limitation from the date on which the offence of torture is alleged to have been committed for taking cognizance.
“It is ridiculous that the government relies on crime of defamation rather than on grievous hurt to justify the six months limitation for cognizance of an act of torture.” – stated Mr Chakma further.
The National Conference recommended that the proposed Act should be renamed as “Prevention and Punishment of Torture Act” and further made specific recommendations to ensure compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture and include provisions, in particular, ensuring that an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification for committing torture (Article 2); establishing jurisdiction over acts of torture committed by or against a party's citizens (Article 4); ensuring that torture is an extraditable offence (Article 8); establishing universal jurisdiction to try cases of torture where an alleged torturer cannot be extradited (Article 5); providing mechanism to promptly investigate any allegation of torture (Articles 12 & 13); providing an enforceable right to compensation to the victims of torture (Article 14); banning the use of evidence obtained through torture in the courts (Article 15); and barring deportation, extradition or refoulement of any person where there are substantial grounds for believing she/she will be subjected to torture (Article 3).