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Torture culture among Police

Torture culture among Police

UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2-   Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

In news:

  • Torture is, in fact, an integral part of police culture all over the country.
  • This culture in India today is reminiscent of the brutality of the colonial police forcesthat we are so keen to forget.
  • Official data also accept that police torture is a reality, but the quality of such data is always suspect.
  • The pervasiveness of police tortureis best understood in the compelling case found in reports made by NGOs and observers over the years, including by the Asian Centre for Human Rights, Amnesty International and People’s Union for Democratic Rights.

Torture an integral part:

  • The data on torture show that it is not only an integral partof India’s policing culture; in some investigations (such as terror cases), it is treated as the centrepiece.
  • The fact is that the current laws facilitate such torture, such as through the admissibility of confessions as evidence under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which continues refurbished as the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.
  • Unfortunately, policing has also not mainstreamed the upgrade to newer technologies, like DNA analysis, which can directly impact law enforcement practices.

Supreme Court on torture:

Even before India signed the UNCAT, the Supreme Court had brought about glorious jurisprudence highlighting the many problems with the country’s torture culture.

  • In Raghbir Singh v. State of Haryana (1980), the Court was “deeply 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.”
  • These sentiments were revisited in Francis Coralie Mullin v. Union Territory of Delhi (1981) and Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra (1987), where the Court condemned cruelty and torture as violative of Article 21.
  • This interpretation of Article 21 is consistent with the principles contained in the UNCAT.
  • The UNCAT aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.


  • Although Indiasigned the UNCAT in 1997, it is yet to ratify it.
  • In 2010, a weak Prevention of Torture Billwas passed by the Lok Sabha, and the Rajya Sabha later sent it to a Select Committee for review in alignment with the UNCAT.
  • But the Committee’s recommended law, submitted in 2012, never fructified, as the then UPA government allowed the Bill to lapse.
  • In 2016, Ashwani Kumar, a senior advocate and former Union Minister of Law, sought the enactment of a torture law via a Supreme Court petition.
  • By 2017, the Law Commission had submitted its 273rd report and an accompanying draft torture law.
  • But the Supreme Court dismissedthe petition on grounds that the government cannot be compelled to make a law by mandamus; treaty ratification was a political decision; and that it was a policy matter.
  • A second petition on the issue filed also met the same fate as the first one.
  • Even with failings, the Commission’s draft Bill is better than not having one at all.
  • A version based on this draft was circulated to State governments for views, but nothing has come of it, and nothing is likely to, either.
  • This reluctance is arguably because all governments appear to collectively agree that police brutality is a necessary evil to maintain law and order.

What is needed:

  • A recognition that torture is endemic and a systemic problem.
  • The only answer lies in stringent legal framework that is aligned with and committed to the principles of international law under the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)to which India has been a signatory since 1997.
  • watertight enforcement mechanismthat deters such practices.
  • The Law Commission’s draft Bill should be assessed and passed.

Gandhi and Buddha have propagated peace, non-violence and upholding human dignity. As such, the concept of torture is completely alien to our culture and it has no place in the governance of the nation. Measures should be taken to abolish it.

Source:” The Hindu“.


Critically examine whether usage of torture is becoming an integral part among the police institutions in India.