Law Panel Seeks Life Term For Officials Found Guilty Of Custodial Torture

Without a law to guarantee protection to people from torture on the hands of government officials, extradition requests to some countries have run into difficulties, the Law Commission has said

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Law Panel Seeks Life Term For Officials Found Guilty Of Custodial Torture

The Law Commission said a mechanism is needed to protect victims of torture

New Delhi:  The Law Commission has sought life term for law enforcement officials who have been found guilty of torturing people in their custody. In a report given to the Law Ministry, the commission has said such a move is needed in order to ease extradition of criminals from other countries. Without a law to guarantee protection to people from torture on the hands of government officials, extradition requests to some countries have run into difficulties, the commission has said, adding the government should to ratify a UN convention on torture and make a new law.

The draft Prevention of Torture Bill, 2017 seeks "stringent punishment" to government officials who have been found guilty of torturing people under their custody. The report given to the Law Ministry said the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 need amendments to accommodate provisions over compensation and burden of proof.

It recommended an amendment to Section 357B to incorporate payment of compensation, in addition to payment of fine provided in the Indian Penal Code. The report, now in the public domain, said the Indian Evidence Act required the insertion of a new Section 114B.

"This will ensure that in case a person in police custody sustains injuries, it is presumed that those injuries have been inflicted by the police, and the burden of proof shall lie on the authority concerned to explain such injury," the Law Commission report said.

Referring to compensation for torture victims, the report said courts would decide on a "justiciable compensation" after taking into account facts of the case, such as nature, purpose, extent and manner of injury, including mental agony caused to the victim.

"The courts will bear in mind the socio-economic background of the victim" and ensure that the compensation will help the victim bear expenses for medical treatment and rehabilitation, the panel recommended.

The report said a mechanism must be put in place to protect victims of torture, complainants and witnesses against possible threats. The commission recommended the state own responsibility for injuries caused by its agents on citizens, and the "principle of sovereign immunity cannot override the rights assured by the Constitution".

"While dealing with the plea of sovereign immunity, the Courts will have to bear in mind that it is the citizens who are entitled for fundamental rights, and not the agents of the State," it said. 

In July this year, the centre had asked the panel to examine the issue of ratifying the UN convention.
 

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