//Govt plans tough new law to punish torture in custody

Govt plans tough new law to punish torture in custody

New Delhi: Almost 11 years after it signed the United Nations Convention against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Indian Government has finally initiated steps to have a law to check torture by making it a punishable offence.

Documents accessed by The Indian Express reveal that while the signatories to the UN Convention were only obliged to amend prevailing laws to make torture a punishable offence, the Indian Government has decided to go the whole hog and bring in a new law providing for stricter punishment for those involved in incidents of torture.

The maximum punishment prescribed is 10 years which, Government officials say, is among the highest in the world. The draft legislation also makes inflicting mental torture a punishable offence.

Not only this, the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2008, which the Government has drafted includes torture by government servants, including police officials, within the ambit of punishable offences. Under the proposed law, public servants and others responsible for causing grievous hurt or danger to life, limb or health of any person would be liable for being punished.

Public servants torturing anybody for the purpose of extracting information or extra-judicial confession from any accused would also attract penal action under the proposed law.

The legislation will cover torture on the ground of race, religion, place of birth, residence, language, caste and community.

Under the proposed law, said a senior officer, “we will set up independent panels to deal with complaints of torture, both at the central as well as the state level.”

All complaints in torture matters would be forwarded to these panels,” said the officer.

Maneesh Chhibber Indian Express Feb 17, 2009