The Supreme Court has sought the response of the Union Government on a public interest litigation filed by former Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar seeking the court’s intervention to ensure an effective and purposeful legislative framework/ laws and its enforcement to fulfill the constitutional promise of human dignity and prevention of custodial torture at all levels.
The petitioner, who is a senior advocate of Supreme Court, submitted that India has not ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment so far, since the ratification requires enabling legislation to reflect the definition and punishment for “torture”.
As on date, India does not have any legislation that defines the expression “torture” or “custodial torture” nor is there a law dealing specifically with torture in custody and the various specific aspects concerned with custodial torture and those involved in the incidents of such torture.
He also submitted that it was observed in the Rajya Sabha Select Committee Report dated 02.12.2010 on the proposed Torture Bill, which was presented in the Rajya Sabha on 06.12.2010, that representatives of the Union Home Ministry had specifically deposed that relevant provisions in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, do not specifically define “torture” as clearly as in Article 1 of the convention, nor has “torture” been made a specific offence by name under the existing criminal laws of the country.
It is manifest from a bare perusal of the provisions of the IPC, that the provisions thereof do not specifically and comprehensively address the various aspects of the custodial torture and are grossly inadequate to address the spiraling situation of custodial violence across the country.
The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, dated 19.4.2010 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 26.04.2010 by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Lok Sabha passed the Bill on 06.05.2010.
The Bill, as passed by the Lok Sabha was referred to a select committee, comprising 13 members of the Rajya Sabha, on 31.08.2010.
The committee submitted its report on 06.12.2010. In its report, it recommended the enactment of a comprehensive law to prevent torture in the spirit of the Torture Bill.
In a letter to the petitioner, it was informed by the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Government of India, that some states were of the opinion that adequate provisions already exist in the IPC and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and that there was no need for a separate enactment. It was also informed that the government had decided to make suitable amendments to the existing provisions of the IPC and CrPC.
According to the petition, no amendments have been carried out till date. It is submitted that the need of the hour is not systematic changes or amendments in the IPC but a comprehensive standalone legislation to prevent torture, in which all aspects of torture can be comprehensively addressed.
The petition also seeks a direction directing the Union of India to invest and empower agencies such as the National Human Rights Commission, with the necessary enforcement capabilities and mechanism for implementation of its orders and directions.
Read the petition here.