The Executive Committee of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) chaired by former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habiballah issued a statement on the recent torture and deaths of father and son, Jayaraj and Bennix in custody of the Tamil Nadu police in Sathankulam, Thoothukudy.
The committee stated that the said incident is an acute demonstration of a broken criminal justice system and failure to effectively uphold legal protection against police abuse, before urging the Government of India to bring in a draft law on torture before Parliament and ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
The press release states-
"The incident underlines afresh the urgent need for institutional correctives within the police system in this country and underlines the acute need for India to enact a strong law to prohibit and prosecute torture and custodial death, in fulfillment of its legal obligations, both national and international to guarantee/protect right to life."
Furthermore, the committee pointed out that India remains amongst the handful of countries (25) yet to ratify the UNCAT, while a total of 170 countries around the world have already ratified it including China and Pakistan.
The National Campaign Against Torture stated in its report dated June 26, the international day to honour victims of torture, that a total of 1791 people died in custody in India in 2019.
The committee said-
"At a time when demands for police reforms are sweeping the world in the context of Black Lives Matter movement, the killings of P Jeyraj and Bennix are a chilling reminder of how routine the excessive use of force has become in India, resulting in tragic loss of lives. It sends a chilling message about how broken the system is, the failure of police and political leaders to step up accountability measures for illegality. It also lays bare brutally what happens to ordinary people who do not know their rights or that custodial violence is not normal behaviour."
The reason for such detention and subsequent death of the father and son duo was that they were keeping their stores open beyond the authorized hours. The press release states -
"It is another example of the impunity with which the police and government authorities have been functioning across jurisdictions during the pandemic, where restrictions on freedom of movement, assembly and expression have been enforced arbitrarily."
So far only two sub-inspectors have been suspended and a departmental proceeding has been initiated against two head constables but no FIR has been registered against them, the Committee sought the arrest of all policemen involved including one of inspector rank and charge them with murder.
Finally, the committee stressed upon the dire need for police reforms in the country-
"The harm inflicted on the deceased and the tragedy visited on their families cannot be eased by the Rs.20 lakh compensation and government jobs offer for relatives. The malaise goes far deeper.
Without police reforms which have been advocated by successive police commissions in this country which strike at the root of the abuse, cultural and institutional bias that governs the conduct of policemen at different levels, such brutal episodes will continue to happen. The details of such reforms are known, what is required is the political will to implement them. Both the police and political leaders have resisted change. What happened in a police station in Tamil Nadu that night is an outcome of that refusal to change."
Click Here To Download Press Release
[Read Press Release]