THE police demand for immunity from prosecution for acts of torture by police officers by way of the repeal of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act 2013 is as much odious as atrocious. A field-level police official in the Police Week 2017 programme on Monday, as New Age reported on Tuesday, sought, amidst a crowd in the presence of the prime minister, the home minister and ranking police officials, the law to be repealed to ‘protect peace, stability and security’ and to inspire the police — although it beats logic why police personnel, who took up the job of keeping law and order, should be ‘inspired’ into doing the duties they have been recruited for. This is not the first time that the police have sought the law to be revoked; they have all along been opposed to the passage of the law as it aims at checking against, ineffectively though especially in the absence of the required will of the executive, the use of torture, which is unlawfully, and pervasively, practised as a potent interrogation technique in criminal investigation. The use of torture, causing even death in custody, has almost been pervasive as a means to extract information in custody, circumventing the criminal justice system and undermining the rule of law.
In such a situation, when the laws against torture in obtaining confession by causing physical or mental hurt or danger to life should be strengthened more, and adequately, to stop rights violation, such a demand coming from the police for a shield against prosecution for crimes they could be committing could only be likened to affording them a licence to torture. When such torture has already become pervasive, any such licence would only lead them on the path to monstrosity. The police put forth the demand, as it appeared from what the police official said, on the excuse of a Supreme Court directive that curbs their ‘rights’ under the existing laws and discouraging the interrogation of suspects. What the police here forget is that their job is to keep law and order and take crime suspects to the court of law, which will then, keeping to the judicial process, decide what fortune awaits the suspects. The police also forget that there is a standard procedure of interrogation, keeping to the international norms, which the court has time and again asked the police to adhere to. Without attending to the issue, it is unfortunate that the police have sought a repeal of the law. As for ‘false cases’ as the police put it, there are again laws to deal with the issue, as much as it is for ordinary citizens as for law enforcers.
It is an open secret that custodial death is routinely projected as the result of ‘encounter’ or death caused by physical and medical condition such as heart failures. Most of the cases in torture or death in custody do not reach conviction as the police continue to have the investigation charge, which is a weakness of the legal dispensation. The government must, therefore, not only caulk the legal cracks but also fully harmonise all laws with the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
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