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Law and the State has come to recognize the rights of men.  Though these rights differ from country to country, some of the rights are accepted by nations all over the world regardless of their ideology or political, economic  or social conditions[1]. Termed as ‘basic’,  ‘absolute’, ‘inalienable’, ‘inherent’, or ‘involable’, these rights called as “Human Rights”, are meant for the protection of the individual, for the fulfillment of his needs and realization of his personality, and are derived from inherent  dignity and worth of the human person[2]. 

Though the Constitution of India exhaustively covers the internationally  accepted norms on human rights, the question is how far the people are enjoying these  rights in actual practice? Studies conducted  by independent  researchers,[3] non-governmental  organizations like Amnesty International[4] and many judicial decisions[5] reveal that state lawlessness and terror  are the great threats to the basic rights of the people. These  materials further  reveal that the most drastic attack  on these rights come from the  State  controlled organized forces, the Police. Police Atrocity emerges  to be the prime threat to human rights. World over, there has been an alarming increase in crimes against human dignity committed by police, especially in custody. Scientific  methods of interrogation lies  confined to police text books. Torture, is looked upon as the only method to extract a confession. In India, the Bhagalpur blinding still remain as a blemish on the collective psyche of the nation.  In that episode, over thirty suspects were blinded by pouring acid into their eyes. For quite long, media had been flooded with the infamous Raja case(1977) from Kerala, of the emergency days to the recent fake encounters  in Punjab pointing the frequent happenings of police atrocities. More recently, in a ghastly incident in Rajasthan, [6] a suspect’s penis was chopped off during the course of an interrogation. These are few of the incidents. Infact, physical torture by police consist “of beating, of  long grilling by days of interrogations under blinding lights, of locking the prisoner in a cell   without  food or water for long periods or placing him  in a cell where mosquitoes breed on him. It  may also consist of gouging the eyes, thereby creating complete blindness, causing injuries on vagina and inserting  iron rod in the anus.”[7]

Police atrocity is always a subject of discussion in the legal circle. No body can stop this cruel game of police. But what else a judiciary can do in a democracy. It can make some laws to the country and that has become the law of the land when ultimately pronounced by th state and central judicial heads. Since there is no specific statute on police atrocity, much judge-made law has crept on judicial concern. Infact, the Judiciary is much concerned over the recurrence of police atrocities and have expressed deep anxiety over the strategies to prevent police atrocity.

The very words of Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer in Raghubir Singh’s Case[8] enlightens one over the judicial anxiety on the problem, which reads:

 “We  are disturbed by the diabolical recurrence of police torture resulting in a terrible scare in the minds of common citizens that their lives and liberty are under a new peril when the guardians of the law gore human rights to death. The vulnerability of human rights assumes a traumatic, torture some poignancy (when) the violent violation is  perpetrated by the police arm of the State whose function is to protect the citizen and not to commit gruesome offences against them as has happened in this case. Police lock-up if reports in newspapers have a streak of credence, are becoming more and more awesome cells. This development is disastrous to our human rights awareness and humanist constitutional order.

          The State, at the highest administrative and political levels, we hope will organize special strategies to prevent and punish brutality by police methodology. Otherwise, the credibility of the rule of law in our Republic vis-à-vis the people of the country will deteriorate.”

Similar concern was expressed by the Supreme Court in Kishore Singh Ravider Dev’s Case[9] in the following words:

“Even so, no police life-style which relies more on fists than on wits, on torture more than on culture can control crime because means boomerang on ends and re-fuel the vice which it seeks to extinguish. Secondly, the State must re-educate the constabulary out of their sadistic arts and inculcate a respect for the human person- a process which must begin more by example than by precept if the lower rungs are really to emulate. Thirdly, if any of these policemen are found to have misconducted themselves, no sense of police solidarity or in-service comity should induce the authorities to hide the crime. Condign action, quickly taken is surer guarantee of community credence than bruiting about that all is well with the police, the critics are always in the wrong. Nothing is more cowardly and unconscionable than a person in police custody being beaten up and nothing inflicts a deeper wound on our constitutional culture than a State official running berserk regardless of human rights. We believe the basic pathology which makes police cruelty possible will  received  Government’s serious  attention. Who will police the police?  What psychic stress and social deprivation of the constabulary’s life- style need corrective healing?  When will ‘wits, not fists’   become a police kit?  When will the roots of ‘third degree;  be plucked out and the fresh shoots of humanist respect put out? We make these observations in the humane hope that Art.21 with its profound concern for life and limb, will  become dysfunctional unless the agencies of the law in the police and prison establishments have sympathy for the humanist creed of that article.”

One thing is to be appreciated. The judicial gates on police atrocity have opened up only since the emergency days. Prior to that, no such judge-made law is seen to have been endeavoured on the topic. It is only since 1977, newer vistas of law on the topic has crept in through judicial decisions. In fact, the decisions then on, have gone to carve out the present law on the topic, pushing the statute law backwards.


Few decisions have also come out from the judiciary, supplementing the legislative provisions discussed in the previous chapter. So far as the mandates in Article 22 of the Constitution and Sections 56, 57 and 167 of Code of Criminal Procedure are concerned the Supreme Court had as early as in 1962 asserted these provisions to be mandatory.[10] The Supreme Court in Bhagalpur blinded prisoner’s case[11] had strongly asserted the state and its police authorities to see that constitutional and legal requirement to produce an arrested person before a Judicial Magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest are scrupulously observed. It was reiterated by the Supreme Court that this provision inhibiting detention without remand is a very healthy provision which enables the Magistrates to  keep check over the police investigation and it is necessary that the Magistrates should try to enforce this requirement and where it is found to be disobeyed, come down heavily up on the police. The Court further expressed unhappiness at the lack of concern shown by the Judicial Magistrates in that particular case, in not enquiring from the blinded prisoners, when they were first produced before the Judicial Magistrates and thereafter from time to time for the purpose of  remand, as to how they had received injuries in the eyes. A direction  was also issued  to the High Court to look into these matters closely and ensure that such remissness on the part of the judicial officers does not occur in future.  However no specific relief was granted   in the said case no any check or safeguard to enforce the law put out by the Court. It is quite disgusting to note that no safety checks have been put forth by the Court, except for a condemnation, even in the recent Ramesh Kumar Singh’s case.[12]

However, in a case where   a Member of Legislative  Assembly was arrested and detained in custody by police beyond 24 hours  without producing  him before the Magistrate, though a remand order was obtained, the  Supreme Court held that there is gross violation  of his rights under Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution and further awarded compensation of Rs.50,000/- to him; upholding court’s jurisdiction  to grant compensation in the following words:

“When  a person comes to us with the complaint that he has been arrested and imprisoned with mischievous or malicious intent and that his constitutional and legal rights were invaded the mischief or malice and the invasion may not be washed away or washed away by his being set free. In appropriate   cases we have the jurisdiction to compensate the victim by awarding suitable  monetary compensation.[13]

To desist the police officers from resisting to informal arrests, so as to overcome the hurdle  of Article 22(2), the  Courts have  given a wider connotation to the term, ‘arrest’[14]. Thus, for purposes of Article 22(2) “arrest”  is the restraint on a man’s  personal liberty by the power or colour of lawful authority. What  label the police affixes to their act of restraint is irrelevant and the record of  the time of arrest is not an index to the actual time of arrest. The  arrest commences with the restraint placed on the liberty of the accused and not with the time of  “arrest” recorded  by the arresting officers, declared the court. This is a welcome interpretation that would be a catalyst in desisting  police atrocity in custody.  Still has the problem come to an end?  No!  That requires something more to be done.

In Joginder Kumar’s Case[15] the  Apex Court has made it obligatory upon the police to intimate the nearest relative of an arrested person of the fact of his arrest. And this has been made a fundamental right. It was asserted in the said decision that no arrest can be made in a routine manner on a mere allegation of commission of an offence made against a person; and that it would be prudent for a Police Officer in the interest of protection of the constitutional rights of a citizen and perhaps in hs own interest that no arrest should be made without a reasonable satisfacton reached after some investigation as to the genuiness and bonafides of a complaint and a reasonable belief both as to the  person’s complicity and even so as to the need to effect arrest. It was directed by the Court that except in heinous offences, an arrest must be avoided if a police officer issues notice to person to attend the Station House and not to leave station without permission would do.

In this case, the Court held that right of arrestee to have someone informed about his arrest and the right to consult privately with lawyer are fundamental rights inherent in Articles  21 and 22 of the Constitution, which require to be recognized and scrupulously protected. For effective enforcement of these fundamental rights, the court  also issued the following three requirements.

(1) that an arrested person being held in custody is entitled, if he so requests to have one friend relative or other person who is known to him or likely to take an interest in his welfare told as far as is practicable that he has been arrested and where he is being detained.

(2) that the police officer shall inform the arrested person when he brought to the police station of this right; and

(3) that an entry shall be required to be made in the Diary as to who was informed of the arrest.

The Court directed that these protections from power be enforced strictly. The Magistrates were directed to satisfy themselves that these requirements have been complied with when the arrested persons are produced  before them. These requirements were directed to be followed in all cases of arrest till legal provisions are made in this behalf and these requirements were held to be in addition to  the rights of arrested persons found in the various Police Manuals. The Directors General of Police of all the States in India were directed to issue necessary instructions requiring due observance of these requirements. In addition, departmental instructions were also  directed  to be issued to effect that a police officer making an arrest should also record in the case diary, the reasons for making the arrest. These requirements of the Court are yet to be implemented in all the States. If implemented, it would be an ideal check.


One of the classic decisions rendered by Kerala High Court on Section 27 of the Indian  Evidence Act is quite noteworthy, wherein  the Court declined to remand the accused to police custody for getting confession for purpose  of recovery u/s 27 of the Act[16].  In that case, accused had denied knowledge  or information regarding existence or whereabouts  of the material objects sought to be recovered from them. The Court, therefore declined remand  holding that it is unlikely  that the accused would tell the police about the whereabouts of these articles  except   by adopting means of interrogation which are not approved  by law; and that the courts cannot allow themselves to be used for the purpose of enabling the investigator to use means of interrogation not approved by law.


In Nandini Satpathys’ case[17]  the need of the State to fight against police atrocities was affirmed, by the Supreme Court. It was held therein that the  prohibitive sweep of Article 20(3)  extends even to police interrogation. This, no doubt, is a welcome interpretation of the law which would prevent fuel from being added to the firm of police atrocity.  In this particular decision the court has also ventured to bring out what :compelled testimony” actually means. There are expression was taken to be  read, as evidence procured  not merely by physical threats or violence but by psychic torture, atmospheric pressure, environmental coercion, tiring  interrogative police, overbearing and intimidatory methods and the like. It was held that if there is any mode of pressure, subtle or crude, mental or psysical, direct or indirect but sufficiently substantial, applied by the policeman  for obtaining information from an accused strongly suggestive of guilt, it becomes “compelled  testimony” violative of Article 20(3). In the same case, the Court also  upheld  that if an accused  person expresses the wish to have his lawyer by his side when his examination  is going on, this facility  shall not be denied, without  being  exposed to the serious reproof that involuntary self-incrimination secured in secrecy and by coercing the will, was the object. This has been approved of by the court to remove the implicit menace of a police station, with liberty to intersect where intimidatory tactics are adopted. Further, in the said case, the Court had also noted with regret, the action of a police officer at a higher level insisting on a woman to appear at the police station in flagrant contravention of the wholesome proviso to Section 160(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Such deviance must be visited with prompt punishments since policemen may not be a law unto themselves expecting others to obey the law,  directed the Court.



Adv. K.C. Suresh, B.A., LL.M (Crimes), PGDHR (Human Rights)

[1] See R.G.Chaturvedi, ‘Chaudhary and Chaturvedi’s Law of Fundamental Rights’, 1990 3rd Edn. P.3.

[2] See S.Prakash Sinha, Human Rights Philosophycally”, 18 I.J.I.L 1978, P.139.

[3] See K.N.Prakash, “The Vienna Chapter”, Civil Service Chronicle,  August 1993, p.8; Mohammed Ghouse, ‘State Lawlessness and the Constitution: A Study of Lock-up Deaths’, I M.P.Singh, Comparative Constitutional Law, (1989), P.248

[4] See Human Rights in India, The  updated Amnesty International Report, 1993.

[5] See Khatri – v- State of  Bihar, AIR 1981 SC 928; Anil Yadav –v – State of Bihar, )1981) 1 SCC 623 Raghubir Singh – V – State of Harayana, AIR 1980 SC 1087; State of U.P. – v – Ram Sagar Yadav, AIR 1985 SC 416; P.U.D.R – V – Police Commissioner, Delhi Police, (1980) 4 SCC 730; Sahali – v – Commissioner of Police, Delhi (1990) 1 SCC 422;  State of Maharashtra – v – Ravikant S. Patel, (1991) 2 SCC 373; Neelabate Bahera – v- State of Orissa, (1993) 2 SCC 746; Sudha Rasheed – v – Union of India, 1995 (1) Scale 77

[6] See Indian Express daily, Cochin Edn, August 3, 1994.

[7] See Mir Mehraj-Ud-Din,  “The Machinery of Criminal Investigation”, 10 Indian J. Criminol.  (1982), 59 at 60.

[8]  In this case, a bunch of ‘suspects’ were bought up to the police post which was in the charge of Reghubir Singh, an Asst. Sub Inspector of Police, as part of investigation into a case of theft in some officer’s house. These suspects were suffered severe flagellation. Chabila, one of those who tortured, succumbed to his injuries, trigerring investigation into murderous conduct of Reghubir Singh ultimately resulting in his conviction U/s 302 I.P.C., concurrently upheld by Sessions Court and High Court; against which he preferred a Special Leave Petition to the Supreme Court. Dismissing  the plea, an anxiety over the problem was also expressed by the Court. See ‘Raghubir Singh –V- State of Haryana, AIR 1980 SC 1087.


[9] This was a public interest litigation on the suffering of prisoners in Jaipur Central Jail. In the case, the Supreme Court had passed an order for producing a prisoner before it. While the prisoner was being taken to Court he was manhandled severely by the escort police.  An enquiry was ordered by Court in the matter and these observations against police torture were made. See Kishore Singh Ravinder Dev –V- State of Rajastan: AIR 1981 SC 625.


[10] See State of U.P. –V- Abdul Samed, AIR 1962 SC 1506

[11] This case relates to the incident  of torture by police on prisoners in Bhagalpur Central Jail resulting in their despiration of eyesight . See ‘ Khatri & Ors. V State of Bihar & Ors.’ AIR 1981 SC 928 at p.932.


[12] See Ramesh Kumar Singh-v-State of Bihar,(1987) Supp. SCC 335.

[13] See ‘Bhim Singh V State of J & K and ors’ AIR 1986 SC 494.


[14] See  Ashak Hussain Allah Detha alias Siddique & another  V  Asst.  Collector of Customs (P), Bombay & another 1990 Cri.L.J 2201  at p.2205; Krishna Raj V State f Kerala ILR  (1980) 1 Ker.51 (DB).


[15] Interestingly this is a case where a young Advocate of 28 years was called to police station for making some enquiries and kept under custody from 7-1-1994 and removed to undisclosed destination for five days without production before a Magistrate. See Joginder Kumar –V- State of U.P, AIR 1994 SC 1349.


[16]  Sree Sreedharan V State of Kerala 1980 KLT 829

[17]  See Nandini Satpathy V P.L Dani & another : AIR 1978 SC 1025.


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