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The National Human Rights Commission's report that Uttar Pradesh has recorded maximum custodial deaths in 2009 is cause for serious concern. This also shows the state police and jail authorities in poor light. According to the NHRC figures, 232 people have died in the state's police stations in 2009 alone. Equally alarming is the fact that as many as 1180 people died in custody in Uttar Pradesh in the last four years. Maharashtra comes next with 1184 cases. The situation in Punjab is no better. According to the figures supplied by the Punjab government in an affidavit before the Supreme Court Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, and Justice P. Sathasivam, custodial deaths rose from two in 2004 to a whopping 80 in 2006 and 63 in 2007. Surprisingly, Jammu and Kashmir, often criticised for its poor human rights violations record, has reported only three custodial deaths in 2009. Even during 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09, Jammu and Kashmir recorded only one, eight and one deaths in custody.


The increasing number of custodial deaths proves that the state governments are not enforcing the directives of the Supreme Court and the NHRC properly. Part of the problem is the refusal of the police to shed its colonial mindset. Most policemen behave like beats in khaki and adopt questionable methods — often crude and obsolete — during interrogation. The victims usually hail from backward sections most of whom with little or no means to seek legal help. While some succumb to pain, others carry the scars throughout their life.


Though the Supreme Court has issued clear-cut directions and guidelines, the police use cruel ways to snuff out life of an accused. One way of checking custodial deaths is to sensitise the policemen on human rights through suitable training and orientation. The cops found guilty of torturing the accused need to be given stiff punishment including dismissal from service. No leniency should be shown towards policemen who refuse to respect the human rights of the prisoners, including undertrials.

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Category Criminal Law, Other Articles by - Raj Kumar Makkad