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Custody deaths on rise

delhi Updated: Apr 14, 2010 00:13 IST
Satya Prakash

Custody deaths in India have gone up by 42 per cent in the last decade, a rights group said on Tuesday.

For eight years since 2000, a 54.02 per cent increase has been recorded in prison deaths, while deaths in police custody have gone up by 19.88 per cent, says a report released by the Asian Centre for Human Rights.

The report, Torture in India 2010, comes at a time when the government is pushing for an anti-torture law. Last week, the cabinet approved the prevention of torture Bill, 13 years after the country signed an international treaty against torture.

The numbers of deaths in judicial custody (jail) between 2000 and 2008 were 10,721, while 1,345 people died in police custody, says the report, based on figures released by the National Human Rights Commission and government departments.

Among the armed opposition groups, Maoists have been identified as the worst offenders. The rebels regularly resorted to murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture in blatant violation of International Humanitarian Law, says the report.

The Centre cannot absolve itself of responsibility simply by saying that law and order was a state subject, said ACHR director Suhas Chakma.

Citing the April 8 HT report on alleged custodial torture of Vinod Sharma and the alleged torture of US journalist Joel Elliot by Delhi Police in October 2009, Chakma said: “It is the ‘aam aadmi’ (common man) who is the victim of torture…”

He demanded scraping of the law requiring sanction to prosecute police and other government officials and implementation of the Law Commission’s report on “custodial crimes” that calls for shifting the burden of proof on the police in custodial death cases.