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Custodial Violence: Suffered by all prisoners in India

People are kept in prisons, such prisons serves as a deterrent to reform the individuals that have committed some offence which is prohibited under the law of the land. Rights of Prisoners have always been questioned and is debateable. But even after enforcement of statutes that protect the prisoners, abuse is still inflicted on them in many forms such as rape of female prisoners, beating of prisoners which leads to death or severe injuries. While all such action against the prisoners is prohibited under the law, there has been numerous cases when such abuses are highlighted.

This is known as the act of custodial violence which is one of the major faced in Indian prisons. This author in the research paper highlights the sufferance of the prisoners in the prisons and the shortcomings of the prison reforms in India. The author also provides a detailed suggestions providing the ways through which such problems can be lessened.

"Violence" is defined as any kind of abuse, torture, hurt or use of force in order to inflict or cause injury or damage to any person. The reason for infliction of such pain to the mind or/ and body of such person is to forcefully make a person confess or to extract any information from the person or to punish such person.

There is no definition of "custody" in any procedural or substantive laws in India but it's dictionary meaning defines it "legal duty or right to take care of some person". The word custody mean protective care.[1]Custody can be of two types, firstly, judicial custody or police custody. To inflict any pain, abuse or torture to any person while in custody is unlawful and prohibited under the law. According to law, custody means person in imprisonment or judicial or penal safekeeping. Police officers should abide by the principles of law and should not violate it.

There have been various kinds of remedies for the protection of the detaineesgiven under the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights,1966, such as, Article 15 states that "no one shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishments".

But, are these kinds of provisions actually been enforced in the societies? In various news channels and newspapers we get to know about the custodial death, brutalities by officers etc. Human rights commission have always raised their voice against the brutalities by police staffs and their members.

Reasons Behind the Violence in Police and Judicial Custody

The primary duty of the police officers is to uphold national law and order in the country, in the situationsuch as riots, terrorist attacks in states, break the seal of drug dealing, fight against mafia's and underworld, putting criminals behind the bars, etc. In all such situations police somehow feel themselves as inferior with less armaments been provided to them by government and on the other hand the criminals carrying heavy equipped guns, rifles or local grenades.[1]

So, there is a kind of pressure been found in policemen that they have to work with a small revolver and on the other hand the criminals carrying big rifle. Having limited opportunities with them they still have to deal with it, low communication network, no modern armaments etc. Such cases amounts to increased work stress which in turn leads to a major cause of custodial violence.
  1. Interference done by political parties is also the significant reason behind the police brutalities against the prisoners. These political parties posses pressure to the police officers to get the result and commitment of the prisoner, just because which police officer uses third degree operation on these detainee's to get the outcome very fast.
  2. The lack of proper training can also be one of the cause of custodial violence by police. If proper training have not been given to the officers in their training programme it will lead to losing their temper against detainee's, unnecessary harshness and using third degree
  3. operation. Police officers should not forget that they are the protectors of right not the infringers of right.
  4. To show the final result to their superior officers some police officers and in-charge or constables use third degree for their promotion purpose and to show that they have made detainee to accept that he had committed crime. Due, to which their superior officers give them promotion for this leaving all the wrongs methods been taken by the officers.

History of Custodial Violence:

The term custodial violence isn't new to this century, our ancestors and our parents have told us much more about the past time how barbarous some rulers used to be. The brutalities done by the police has been following since the era of rulers or kings. The Indian history, also talks about the harshness done by the "Nanda dynasty"the entire family of Chandragupta Maurya was imprisoned during the Mauryan era, and the family had access to food that was essentially sufficient for one person to survive. Even the great economist 'Chanakya' in his book Arthshastra talks about the brutalities or harshness such as burning of body parts, left in front of wild animal, cutting of body parts etc.

Even in the Mughal, they followed shariyat law which was another brutal law made by them. The punishments described under this law was an eye for an eye, a hand for a hand these were the kinds of punishments which are still functioning in this modern century in Islamic country. So, the idea of harshness isn't new to this 21st century.

Remedies Granted To Prisoners:

The word prisoner means any person who has been put behind the bars because of any act committed by him is against the law and violates the basic principles of law.[1] The prisoner inside the jail are granted with very basic rights such as right to food or water, right to have an advocate to defend himself and protection from racial harassment or violence.

In the UN Charter signed in June,1945 and came into force in 26th October,1945, have constructed certain guidelines for the treatment of prisoners such as the dignity of the prisoner must be respected ,respect the prisoner's cultural and religious beliefs in which he belongs [9],access to appropriate medical facilities without any discrimination on any of the grounds of their legal action etc.

It is best to abide by the ruling rendered by the Apex court in the case of D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal[2], all the 11 guidelines that was made by the Supreme Court in its judgement should be abided such as police official who arrest or interrogate the accused person should have a visible batch on his uniform with his designation, person arrested by the officer have the right to inform his relative, friend or his close ones about his arrest, accused person have the rights to ask on what ground he has been arrested etc.

Even the UDHR talks about the basic laws for prisoners protection as Article 5 'no person shall be treated to any torture, cruel or any other type of inhumane treatment or punishment, but do we find this article being seriously implemented in the country like India which has a history of custodial violence.

Few weeks earlier, the Tamil Nadu incident took place where a father named Jayraj and his son named Fennix was dead due to the harshness and brutality by police officers and Friends Of Police in the custody, where first father was arrested by the police and when his son went to see his father in police station he found an officer misbehaving with his father with other constables and through which his son fenix reacted and pushed an officer and later both father-son duo was beaten brutally by the officers.

The brutality of the police at that span of time was so much harsh that even patches of blood on their clothes were found and when they both were produced infront of the Magistrate, the Magistrate ignored the bruises.We say India is a democratic country with all fundamental rights granted to every citizen, but do these fundamental rights are being in reality granted to us?

Even the Indian Constitution grants some provisions which we cannot directly call prisoners right but somehow relevant to that like Article 20 (1) " No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of the law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence", Article 20(2) no person can be punished for the same offence again n again, Article 21 Right to Life and Personal Liberty, no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure of the law.

Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India talks about the Right Against Self Incrimination. In case, of Nandini Satpathy the CM of Orissa, the legality of proceedings under section 179 of IPC which talks about the failing to answer with truthfulness when a question asked by a public officer leads to the punishment. Even the Supreme Court held that "Not only the person who has been charged with a crime has the right against self-incrimination[3], but also the person who is most likely to be charged with a crime".

From the era when Britishers invaded India, till now there have been the practice of custodial death and custodial violence in India which is unethical and thus is a disgrace for all citizen of country as well the Government of India

Being the fastest growing country in the world does the country, but is India actually modernized? Still, those evil practices are being followed in our country and somewhere and somehow our government is neglecting this. As a vigilant citizen of India, should bring such brutalities of police department to limelight so that significant enforcement of laws can be done because such acts are intolerable in a democratic country like India.

We are aware of the fact that which is true that work of police is very perilous and burdening but do this give the opportunity to the police department to deal with prisoners so hard, aren't they human?

There are some of the measures and some steps that can be taken for the proper functioning of the police officers such as provide them better training to the police officials to deal with criminals, such officers should be sent for health and mental checkup in every 6 months, increasing involvement of courts in police remands and proper working cameras should must be installed.

  1. Singh, M. (no date) 'Custodial Violence in India', Legal Services India. Available at: (Accessed: 06 June 2023).
  2. Kasera, C. (no date) 'Custodial Violence in Prisons', Manupatra. Available at: (Accessed: 06 June 2023).
  3. Swathy, J. (no date) 'Right of Prisoners', Legal Services India . Available at:
  4. Kumar, A. (no date) 'D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal 1997 (1) SCC 416', Law Times Journal [Preprint].
  5. Nandini Satpathy vs. P. L. Dani and Ors (2019). Available at:

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Shivanshu Gusain
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: SP363344075323-24-0923

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