Custodial Violence in India: A Grave Concern

November 28, 2023
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Custodial violence, a term that encompasses torture, abuse, and death occurring within the confines of police custody or other detention centres, remains a persistent issue in India. This heinous practice not only violates the fundamental rights of individuals but also undermines the very essence of democracy and justice. In this article, we will delve into the recent instances of custodial violence in India, constitutional safeguards relating to it, statutory provisions, and Supreme Court judgments pertaining to custodial violence in India.

Recent instances of custodial violence in India

Time and again instances of custodial death feature the headlines of newspaper. Following are some of the recent instances.

  • The custodial death of Jayaraj and Bennix in Tamil Nadu : in June 2020, a father-son duo, Jayaraj and Bennix, were arrested for allegedly violating lockdown norms. They were taken into custody by the police and subjected to brutal torture, resulting in their deaths.
  • The custodial death of Sreejith in Kerala: In 2018, Sreejith, a young man in Kerala, was allegedly beaten to death by the police while in custody. He was wrongfully implicated in a case and subjected to torture.
  • The custodial death of N. Kumaresan in Tamil Nadu: In 2019, Kumaresan, a Dalit youth, died in police custody in Tamil Nadu. He was arrested on charges of theft and was allegedly tortured by the police during interrogation.

Constitutional Safeguards against custodial violence

The Indian Constitution, which serves as the supreme law of the land, guarantees certain fundamental rights to its citizens. These rights act as safeguards against any form of custodial violence. The most relevant constitutional provisions are:

  1. Article 14: Right to Equality -. It ensures that no person is subjected to custodial violence due to arbitrary reasons.
  2. Article 19: Protection of Certain Rights – This provision guarantees the freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association, movement, residence, and profession. It protects individuals from unwarranted restrictions imposed by authorities during custodial interrogation.
  3. Article 21: Right to Life and Personal Liberty – This fundamental right is the cornerstone for protection against custodial violence. It ensures that no person shall be deprived of their life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. Custodial violence infringes upon this right and is considered a gross violation of human rights.
  4. Article 20(3)Rule against self-incrimination– According to this fundamental right, no person accused of an offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. Therefore, accused shall not be subjected to any amount of extortion in lieu of extracting information out of him.

Statutory Provisions against custodial violence in India

In addition to constitutional provisions, there are other statutes to address custodial violence and provide remedies for its victims. Some notable statutory provisions include:

  1. The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973Section 41 to Section 60 of the CrPC lay down the procedure for arrest, detention, and interrogation. These provisions aim to prevent custodial violence by ensuring that arrests are made in accordance with the law and that detainees are treated with dignity and respect.
  2. The Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860Sections 330 to 339 of the IPC deal with offenses related to custodial violence. These sections criminalize acts such as causing hurt to extort confession, wrongful confinement, and assault on public servants.  Perpetrators can be punished with imprisonment and fines under these provisions.
  3. India Evidence Act, 1872Section 25 of the IEA, makes it clear that no confession made by an accused person in the custody of police shall be proved against such person. This provision ensures that Police officers don’t use coercive methods to extract information from the accused person.

Indian Supreme Court on custodial violence

The Supreme Court of India has played a pivotal role in addressing the issue of custodial violence and formulating guidelines to prevent its occurrence. Several landmark judgments have been pronounced by the apex court, including:

  • D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997) – This landmark judgment laid down specific guidelines to be followed by the police during arrest and detention. It emphasized the importance of protecting the rights and dignity of individuals in custody. The court mandated the presence of a legal representative during interrogations, medical examinations, and the submission of arrest memos.
  • Prakash Singh v. Union of India (2006) – In this case, the Supreme Court issued directives to ensure police reforms and accountability. It emphasized the need for an independent oversight mechanism to investigate complaints of custodial violence and recommended setting up Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district levels.
  • Joginder Kumar v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1994): In this case, the Supreme Court held that arrest and detention must be justified by specific reasons and should not be arbitrary or excessive. It emphasized the importance of respecting the rights of individuals during arrest, including the right to be informed of the reasons for arrest and the right to legal representation.
  • Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa (1993): This judgment recognized that custodial violence is a gross violation of human rights and held that compensation should be awarded to victims or their families in cases of custodial deaths or torture. It established the principle of state liability for custodial violence and emphasized the need for accountability and deterrence.
  • Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra (1983): In this case, the Supreme Court issued guidelines to prevent custodial violence against women, particularly in cases of sexual assault. It emphasized the need for sensitivity and respect for the dignity of women in custody and provided safeguards such as separate accommodation for women prisoners and female staff in police stations.


Custodial violence in India is a dark reality that continues to haunt the justice system and undermine the principles of democracy. While constitutional provisions and statutory provisions provide a legal framework to prevent such acts, their effective implementation remains a challenge. The Supreme Court’s intervention through landmark judgments has been instrumental in setting guidelines and emphasizing the need for police reforms. However, it is essential for the government, law enforcement agencies, and society as a whole to work collectively towards eradicating custodial violence and ensuring justice for its victims.

Significance of the Topic

The issue of custodial violence is a grave issue of violation of human rights in India. Several recent instances of custodial violence make it an issue of contemporary relevance. Therefore, judiciary coaching suggest that this issue should be prepared by the judiciary aspirants. Judiciary coaching also suggest that such a topic may be prepared with the essay perspective.

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