//Torture Prevention in Kerala

Torture Prevention in Kerala

By Dr.S.Balaraman, Niyama Samkeeksha Magazine, 18 July 2003

Torture as you know is a feudal practice which was generally used during the feudal times. The use of torture in the investigation is regarded as an un-civilized barbarous, heinous, illegal practice. The police in their anxiety to follow a short-cut and to obtain a confession often resort to torture. At times, victims are made to torture each other, women are often subjected to indignity including forced non-consensual sex.
It is mostly the poor and the down trodden who are the victims. They are illegally detained and harassed in terrifying ways, using even 3rd degree methods to elicit confessions from them. They are incarcerated in different ways. The result is custodial crimes. The observation of the Law Commission of India, in this connection is worth mentioning. "Even if the police records arrest and custody of a victim, a death in the police station is made to look like a suicide or accident and body is disposed off quickly with the connivance of a doctor. Records are manipulated, the relatives and friends of the victim are unable to seek justice because of fear, poverty and ignorance.
Torture can wreck a person psychologically and torture make people view themselves as vegetables. Usually the tortured person becomes psychiatrically aggressive. Suicidal tendencies, depressions and such other behaviour become more and more acute. Torture is a serious violation of human rights and it is strictly condemned by International Law and also by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights states, that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".
The rise of custodial crimes has fixed the conscience of the society and has evoked public out-cry against the Law enforcing agency which engages torture. Investigation is a science and the police have to be given training in scientific investigation which is lacking in our country, not to speak Kerala alone. Scientific investigation does not rely on torture. In Western countries, Finger Prints of a suspect are taken and fed into a Computer Network and in almost no time, it can be ascertained whether the suspect has a criminal background or not. Similarly, DNA Test, Test of hairs, Blood, Semen, Saliva all help in criminal investigation and an intelligent interrogator never resorts to use of physical force on the accused.
But unfortunately our investigation officers have not been given training on modem scientific investigation. Moreover, our investigators are not being provided with modem facilities and equipment.

Inflicting torture in custody and during investigation is only a part of the story. Another field where torture is being practiced is in the medical field. A good number of cases have been reported to the Commission on this aspect.
Now let me present the result of a Seminar conducted by the Kerala State Human Rights Commission in association with Vigil India Movement on Combating Torture and Custodial Violence. The Seminar was a National one and attended by several professionals, Non Governmental organisations and officials. (Oct. 2001)

The recommendations include –

1)   The Domestic Law must be amended to make torture a penal offence,
2)  Judicial probe of all cases of custodial violence must be made mandatory as the present institution of Magisterial inquiry lacks credibility,
3)  Every one from the Judge down to the Police man and from the human rights defender to the ordinary citizen must be sensitised, so that there is proper appreciation of human rights values and concerns at all levels and there is a climate conducive to realisation of all human rights,
4)  Not only must the police personnel be instructed in scientific methods of investigation, the necessary tools and facilities necessary for scientific investigation, which are now limited to the big cities, must be made available every where,
5) The authorities must ensure that officers in-charge of police stations and jails scrupulously comply with the recommendations of National and State Human Rights Commissions regarding report of custodial deaths and video filming of postmortem examinations,
6)  The police must be enabled to perform its functions freely without external interference. Political interventions in favour of wrong doers must end.
7)  The problem of corruption needs to be addressed as it appears to be a factor that contributes to custodial violence,
8)  More women should be inducted in police force, direct recruitment of women as Sub Inspectors will go a long way to alter the character, complexion and attitude of the force.

It is worth while to note here the orders of the Supreme Court of India in D.K. Basu Vs. State of West Bengal, case authorising the State Human Rights Commissions to visit police stations and to report the matter direct to the Supreme Court. On the basis of the decision of the Court The Kerala State Human Rights Commission has also constituted a Sub Committee, consisting of two Members, in which I am also a Member.
I had the rare privilege of visiting police stations and inspect the records including the General Diary, the Arrest Memo Register, the Register of Arrestees, the Prisoners Search Register, c Bail Bond Book, F.I.R. Index Register, Inspection Register for noting , injuries, injuries on the body of the arrested persons, Interrogation Register and Sentry Relief Book. Instances of tampering of the records, keeping the arrested persons in lock-up without even under garments etc., have been brought to the notice of the Hon 'ble Supreme Court.

Torture against women and children and atrocities against Dalits are also quite common in Kerala. Visit to Jails reveal that more than 2/3 of the prisoners are Under Trials in Kerala, as in the case of Tihar Jail where Mrs. Kiran Bedi has exposed that similar situations prevail.

I am really sorry to note that people picked up by the police on suspicious ground also remain in jails for several years. Recently during my visit to Central Prison, Trichur, one of the prisoners complained that he is an Under Trial for the last 10 years.

Instances of custodial death increase in Kerala. Last month itself there were two custodial deaths in Quilon district, one in Kottarakkara Sub Jail and one in Karunagappally Police Station.


Author is the former Member of Kerala Human Rights Commission