Enacting a law prohibiting torture is both a moral imperative and a pragmatic necessity.
The Govt.’s Stand:
- The Union government has informed the Supreme Court that it is seriously considering the 273rd Report of the Law Commission, which has recommended that India ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and pass a law to prevent torture and punish its perpetrators.
The Court Sought:
- The court had sought the Centre’s response to a petition filed in public interest by former Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, who complained about the delay in India ratifying the UN Convention, which it had signed in 1997.
- The petition had also favoured a standalone legislation to prohibit torture.
- The court disposed of the matter without any direction after being informed that the matter was under serious consideration.
- The Centre should now act on its own with a sense of urgency.
- There can be no reason to further delay legislative measures to eliminate all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading forms of treatment.
- At an earlier hearing, the court had itself highlighted why a standalone law is needed.
- India has made many requests for extradition of offenders from other countries, and the absence of an anti-torture law may prevent these countries from acceding to India’s requests.
- Earlier this month, extradition courts in the United Kingdom refused to send two persons to India to face trial, one of them on the ground that there was “no effective system of protection from torture in the receiving state”.
- Conditions in India’s prisons, especially the chronic problem of over-crowding, are a reason for the country’s extradition requests failing.
Disagreement on ratification:
- Ratifying the UN Convention and following it up with a domestic law against torture will not only be in the national interest but also have positive implications for the protection of human rights.
- Custodial violence continues to be prevalent in the country.
- The recent example of a bus conductor being forced to confess to murdering a schoolchild is a pointer to the use of torture as an investigative tool among policemen.
The Prevention of Torture Bill:
- The Prevention of Torture Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2010 to address the problem, but it lapsed after it was referred to a Select Committee in the Rajya Sabha.
- The Law Commission, to which the question was referred in July this year, produced a report within three months. It also submitted a draft Bill for the government’s consideration.
The Way Forward:
- The government should accept the recommendations without delay as it not only provides a penal framework for punishing public servants who inflict torture, but also lays down that just compensation be paid to victims.