151 inmates died in police custody this year: Govt

Updated on Dec 01, 2021 11:24 AM IST

A recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report identified suicides, illness, injuries sustained before and during police custody, attempts to escape from custody among the causes of deaths in custody

The ministry cited the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) data and added Maharashtra reported 26 such deaths, the highest among all the states. (Shutterstock Image)
The ministry cited the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) data and added Maharashtra reported 26 such deaths, the highest among all the states. (Shutterstock Image)
ByMalavika Murali

As many as 151 inmates have died in police custody this year, the union home ministry told Parliament on Tuesday in response to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Varun Gandhi’s question. Gandhi sought a state-wise division of custodial deaths.

The ministry cited the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) data and added Maharashtra reported 26 such deaths, the highest among the states. At least 13 states did not register any custodial deaths, it added.

A recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report identified suicides, illness, injuries sustained before and during police custody, attempts to escape from custody among the causes of deaths in custody.

The ministry said police and public order are state subjects and added that because of this, the Centre does not intervene directly in the matters of custodial deaths.

“It is primarily the responsibility of the State Government concerned to appropriately prevent and ensure non-occurrence of police atrocities and protect the human rights of the citizens,” the ministry said.

In response to BJP member Jagdambika Pal’s separate question, the ministry said there has not been an increase in the number of custodial violence cases. It said that during the last three years, 19 cases of prison violence have been registered with NHRC. No death resulted from such violence, it added.

Also Read: Main accused in student leader’s killing dies in accident, say police

There is a mismatch in the data provided in the two responses and in the NCRB findings. NCRB reported 76 deaths in police custody in 2020 compared to 85 in 2019.

“Information on deaths in police custody in India is officially reported by the NHRC and the NCRB. It is extremely unfortunate that even for something as grave and unambiguous as a police custody death, there has always been a mismatch in the data reported by both these institutions,” said Raja Bagga, senior researcher, Police Reform Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

He added that in 2019 and 2020, according to the NCRB reports, police custody deaths were 85 and 76 whereas NHRC’s data for the same years showed 117 and at least 83 deaths. “One of the possible reasons for this is the absence of any standard definition and categorisation of police custody deaths.”

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