Rajya Sabha urged to reject Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010

New Delhi: The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) urged the members of the Rajya Sabha to reject the Prevention of Torture Bill (PTB), 2010 being introduced today and direct the government to place the same before the Parliamentary Standing Committee for holding public consultation with all the relevant stakeholders. The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha without any debate on 6 May 2010.

Torture is systematic and institutionalized in India. The NHRC alone recorded 16,836 custodial deaths, or an average of 1,203 custodial deaths per year during the period 1994 to 2008. Torture that does not result into death in custody are not even recorded in India.

The PTB, 2010 restricts definition of torture to “grievous hurt to any person or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of any person”. This definition does not comply with the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that India wishes to ratify following adoption of the PTB, 2010.

The punishment awarded for torture is lenient. Section 4 of the PTB, 2010 provides for a maximum of 10 years imprisonment for those who are convicted of torture. However, the punishment for custodial death could be upto life imprisonment or even death under the Indian Penal Code.

"By lessening the punishment, the Government of India has effectively kept the menace of custodial death out of the pureviw of the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010.” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

“Further limitation of six months for taking cognizance is less than that for other comparable crimes under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of India. In its definition, the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 includes ‘grievous hurt’ as part of infliction of torture. However, for normal crimes of 'grievous hurt' there are no limitations under Section 468 of the Criminal Procedure Code”. – further stated Mr Chakma.

The PTB, 2010 further justifies torture by making it mandatory to seek previous sanction for torture, which cannot be justified under any exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency”. [Ends]

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