Custodial Death

Custodial Death

News Analysis   /   Custodial Death

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Published on: February 16, 2023

Source: The Indian Express

Context: According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the highest number of custodial deaths has been reported in Gujarat (80) In the last five years.


When an alleged accused has been prosecuted or killed before receiving the orders of such prosecution from the court of law is known as custodial violence/death.

It violates the fundamental rights of a citizen under Article 14 (Right to Equality), 21 (Right to Life), and 22 (Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases) of the Indian Constitution.

Reasons for the custodial deaths:

Police under work pressure: To improve their performance and conduct an investigation as soon as possible.

Punitive violence (torture to deter those who are about to commit a crime).

Positive reinforcement: Using shortcuts to get quick results.

Lack of proper training for policemen.

Laws regulating/prohibiting custodial deaths:

  • The Indian Penal Code (IPC Section-96): Every human being has the right to private defence.
  • The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC Section 46): Allows police to use all means necessary to arrest a detainee.
  • The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act: It gives the Indian Defense Forces broad powers to use lethal force in a variety of situations.

Guidelines to prevent custodial deaths: 

The Central Government: Issues advisories from time to time and has enacted the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHR), 1993, which stipulates the establishment of the NHRC and SHRCs to look into alleged human rights violations by public servants.


  1. A magisterial inquiry (within 3 months) in all cases of deaths in the course of police action.
  2. Prompt prosecution and disciplinary action against delinquent officers.
  3. Denial of out-of-turn promotion, etc.
  4. SC (in the PUCL vs State of Maharashtra case 2014): Laid down 16-point guidelines for a thorough, effective and independent investigation in the cases of death during police encounters.

Some of these are – An independent investigation > disciplinary action > compensation to be granted to the dependents of the victim.

Way ahead:

  • Amend the Evidence Act to place the onus of proof on the police (Law Commission).
  • To sensitize public servants (through NHRC’s workshops, and seminars) for a better understanding of the human rights of persons in custody.

Conclusion: Police and public order are State subjects as per the 7th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Hence, it is primarily the responsibility of the state government concerned to ensure the protection of persons in custody.

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