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About Custodial death


According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the last five years, the highest number of custodial deaths have been reported in Gujarat at 80.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Custodial death:
  2. Reasons for Custodial Deaths
  3. What are the Provisions Available Regarding Custody?

About Custodial death:


  • Custodial death refers to the death of a person who was in the custody of law enforcement officials or in a correctional facility.
  • This can happen due to various reasons, including the use of excessive force, neglect, or abuse by the authorities.


  • According to the Law Commission of India, custodial violence is a crime committed by a public servant against an arrested or detained person who is in custody.

Custodial Death in India:

  • In recent years, the number of custodial deaths in India has been a cause for concern.
  • In 2017-2018, a total of 146 cases of death in police custody were reported.
  • This number decreased to 136 in 2018-2019, 112 in 2019-2020, 100 in 2020-2021 but increased again to 175 in 2021-2022.
  • The highest number of custodial deaths were reported in Gujarat, with 80 cases in the last five years. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar also had a high number of cases.

NHRC Recommendations:

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended monetary relief in 201 cases and disciplinary action in one case related to custodial deaths.

Reasons for Custodial Deaths

  • Absence of Strong Legislation: India does not have an anti-torture legislation and is yet to criminalise custodial violence, while action against culpable officials remains illusory.
  • Excessive force: Law enforcement officials may use excessive force against a person in custody, which can lead to severe injuries or even death.
  • Neglect: Failure to provide adequate medical care, nutrition, or hygienic conditions to the person in custody can also result in custodial deaths.
  • Abuse: Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse by law enforcement officials can cause custodial deaths.
  • Torture: Torture, whether physical or psychological, can lead to severe injuries and even death.
  • Suicide: Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and trauma can drive a person to commit suicide while in custody.
  • Medical conditions: Existing medical conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, can become life-threatening if not adequately treated while in custody.

It’s important to note that in many cases, multiple factors may contribute to custodial deaths. It’s the responsibility of law enforcement officials and correctional facilities to ensure the safety and well-being of persons in their custody.

What are the Provisions Available Regarding Custody?

Constitutional Provisions
  • Under the Indian Constitution, Article 21 provides for the protection of the right to life and personal liberty, and it states that no person shall be deprived of their life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
  • The right to be protected from torture is also considered a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Article 22 provides protection against arrest and detention in certain cases, and it stipulates the right to counsel as a fundamental right.
Administrative provisions
  • Role of State Government:
    • Police and public order are State subjects, and it is primarily the responsibility of the State government to ensure the protection of human rights.
  • Role of Central Government:
    • The Central Government issues advisories and has enacted the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHR), 1993.
    • This act stipulates the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and State Human Rights Commissions to look into alleged human rights violations by public servants.
Legal Provisions
  • The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) Section 41 was amended in 2009 to include safeguards for arrests and detentions, reasonable grounds and documented procedures, transparency to family and friends, and legal representation.
  • The Indian Penal Code (IPC) provides for punishment for injury inflicted for extorting confession under sections 330 and 331.
  • The crime of custodial torture against prisoners can be brought under sections 302, 304, 304A, and 306 of the IPC.
  • The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, provides for the protection of an accused person’s confession made to the police.
    • Section 25 of the Act stipulates that a confession made to the police cannot be admitted in court.
    • Section 26 of the Act provides that a confession made to the police by a person cannot be proved against that person unless it is made before the Magistrate.
  • The Indian Police Act, 1861, provides for the dismissal, penalty, or suspension of police officers who are negligent in the discharge of their duties or unfit to perform the same under sections 7 and 29 of the Act.

-Source: Indian Express

July 2024