Torture is an anathema to any civilized society – Justice Deepak Gupta
The discussion of custodial torture and 3rd degree corporeal punishments has been a matter of concern in India for quite a long time. We as people of civilized society must actively take part in much needed discussions regarding these custodial deaths. We generally are not even aware of such happenings in our own country. A country whose very soul lies in the constitutional equality to be served to all the people, should strive that every person including the criminals be given equal rights and safeguards against heinous tortures. An act of torture is quite contrary to the whole idea of a democratic nation and such inhuman acts by our very own law enforcement officials makes a mockery of the whole justice system.
The most recent act of custodial torture of Jayaraj and his son Fenix which has given rise to a nationwide outrage against the police department; is one of the many custodial tortures that go unreported every single day. Following this incident there has been many debates with regard to this outrageous matter and has been addressed by many eminent personalities revolving around only one question, that till date why has there been no enactment of an Anti-Torture law to curb this menace?
As sound and easy as it may seem to just envision the expulsion of torture by just the enactment of such law. May not be that easy and favorable in reality. Our theories of law and our idea of the society are much utopian rather than practical. We live in a space where our thoughts are molded by our social media feed. We have become so engrossed in our privilege of comfort that we refuse to step out of that clutter of information and do our own research, develop our own approach. This is the sole reason that even though information is imparted by people on many different levels and discussions happens; still it all goes into vain since we do not look at things practically. It is easy to blame the whole system and tell them to take accountability of such actions. However we forget that we are as much accountable as we hold others.
There is a huge misconception among people regarding the rise in these incidents and I highly disagree that these incidents of custodial tortures have been rising over the years. It is a matter of fact that these incidents have always existed and that too for a long time. The difference now is just that these incidents are frequently reported and have started taking more ground than usual. Moreover, most of these cases even though reported go unnoticed, due to our mindset towards attributing a criminal.
We have accepted criminals as outcasts hence we literally do not care as to what happens to them in general. We as a society have been molded into the thinking that if a person is behind bars then they must have committed something wrong and deserve to be there. This notion that surrounds our psychology that an accused deserves any maltreatment or torture as long as he is I jail is wrong in so many ways. It clearly defines that we do not consider criminals as normal human beings hence anything can be done to them.
This recent case of custodial torture that has shaken the conscience of the whole nation has been in news for quite some time now. The facts of the case have been such that involves brutal torture of Jayaraj and his son Fenix. It is being alleged that the duo were taken into custody and beaten leading to their death on the pretext of keeping their shop open past curfew hours in the Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu. Following the investigation 5 police officers have been arrested and charged with murder under Section 302 of IPC.
Judicial enquiry had also been tampered with during the initial investigations leading to contempt of court involving tampering with the evidence and furnishing false statements. The CCTV footage of the night has been tampered with and even the batons used for beating the deceased were initially refused from submission. Furthermore the earlier police report of the incident stated clearly that both died of heart attack. However the final autopsy report from the coroner revealed bruises and signs of excessive force leading to their death. It can be deduced from such scenario that the truth is being fabricated and it is a serious matter of grievous hurt leading to eventual death.
Due to uncooperative conduct of the police in the vicinity and even the report of threatening of a local magistrate has led to an unfavorable series of events which is quite shameful for the law enforcement agencies. Since it is quite ironic that the very people responsible for putting culprits behind bars and protect the public end up becoming the adversary themselves. Due to this the state of Tamil Nadu has approached the centre to take up the investigation to ensure fair investigation.
Such problem starts when the police start considering themselves above the law. Their actions not only takes a huge toll on the public welfare but also take away the trust and fiduciary relationship of the law enforcement agencies and paints a bad picture inside the minds of the general public which is a huge problem in a country like ours. Since if are supposed to take a stand against custodial torture then it’s a prerequisite as a nation that we keep such heinous acts from ever happening.
In a country where poverty and privilege is defined by a very fine and wide line, the batons of police brutality only hits the underprivileged. During the lockdown we have seen many instances of police brutality ranging from people being beaten mercilessly and told to sing national anthem while lying half dead on the streets to normal people being beaten for being out of their homes during the curfew. For the second part I agree that people must strictly follow the government guidelines to honor the social distancing norms however this only increased the misery of the underprivileged.
The tradition of police brutality and custodial torture has been prevalent in our country. However the question arises here is that what is the actual reason that keeps such corrupt practices alive in our system?
According to a report by Suneetra Choudhary (National Editor, Political Affairs-Hindustan Times) she has stated that the mental health of the police officers is beyond compare. According to her it is quite easy to label anyone as corrupt and brutal in behavior just because he is a policeman. That is a really bad practice of setting a stereotype. The police are made to work under distressful conditions every single day with huge pressure from their seniors and policy makers. This makes their life even more difficult since they have to deal with so much pressure along with pathetic living conditions and deal with uncompromising criminals almost every single day. Now just imagine yourself being subjected to such a miserable life. It will definitely impact your psyche adversely and eventually turn you into an oppressor.
Now it shall not be mistakenly confused that police brutality and custodial torture are acceptable. The idea here is to find a solution to this prevailing problem which is not limited to the case of Jayaraj and Fenix. The government should pay more heed towards these problems and facilitate police welfare programs and offer them incentives so that they do not have to work in such deplorable conditions.
In words of Suneetra Choudhary “They’re compensated poorly, they work under pressure. This, of course, does not condone the acts of the police. However, it is a factor and I’m aware that they work under horrific circumstances. They’re tired, they’re harassed, and they end up harassing others. The authorities don’t give them resources and cut corners.”
First and foremost, any law is enacted with the purview of preventing any such crimes from happening. However even after being the lengthiest constitution in the world with every substantive and procedural law being kept in motion still such crimes are bound to happen. Why is that? The main reason is that there are many loopholes within the framework of our law enforcement system with many corrupt officers and poor administration at the lower levels of government. Now, why do we have corrupt officials? Following up to the previous paragraph it is clear that in the absence of good and sustainable conditions for police officers they easily fall prey to corrupt practices. This is a huge problem in our system. For any law to be effective it needs to be implemented accurately and precisely.
Although practically these laws will definitely have loopholes in the start and the police may get away with corrupt practices on a lower level by manipulating the system’s loopholes. However it shall also be noted that such law is much needed in the current society that we live in. It will definitely have some serious impact on such practices for sure. Since it will bring the much needed transparency and will spread awareness among people to take action against the police in case of such incidents and empower them against any exploitation.
In conclusion with regard to this whole unprecedented situation I would like to incorporate Justice Deepak Gupta’s words that any society that turns a blind eye or ignores the fact that torture and custodial death are happening within their country then they have no right to call themselves a civilized society or country. Hence deliberations within the parliament on a national level present to be very important to address the gravity of this issue and reach a plausible point of drafting such legislation keeping in view the public welfare as the utmost priority.
Custodial Deaths: Need For An Anti-Torture Law, Live Law, Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOetupkmhxo
Jeyaraj and Benicks: Five policemen arrested over India custody deaths, BBC News, Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-53260209
Tamil Nadu custodial deaths: Five accused transferred from Tuticorin Jail to Madurai Central jail, The First Post, Available at: https://www.firstpost.com/india/tamil-nadu-custodial-deaths-five-accused-transferred-from-tuticorin-jail-to-madurai-central-jail-8559851.html