‘Prevention of torture bill, 2017

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Context:

The Law Commission has recommended the Union government to consider ratifying the 1984 UN Convention against torture to tide over difficulties in extraditing criminals from foreign countries due to the absence of a law preventing harsh treatment by authorities.

Recommendations:

  • The Law Commission recommended that a bill should be introduced in Parliament to amend various laws to prevent torture by government officials.
  • The draft ‘Prevention of torture bill, 2017’ proposed “stringent punishment” to perpetrators to curb the menace of torture and to have a deterrent effect on acts of torture.
  • It provides a wide definition to torture not confined to physical pain but also includes “inflicting injury, either intentionally or involuntarily, or even an attempt to cause such an injury, which will include physical, mental or psychological.”
  • In case a person in police custody is found with injuries, it would be “presumed that those injuries have been inflicted by the police.” The burden of proof is on the police to explain the injury on the under-trial.
  • The punishment could extend up to life imprisonment and include a fine.
  • It suggested amendments to Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, and Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to accommodate provisions regarding 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 Indian Penal Code.
  • It held that state own responsibility for injuries caused by its agents on citizens and held that principle of sovereign immunity cannot override rights assured by Constitution.
  • It calls for effective mechanism must be put in place to protect victims of torture, complainants and witnesses against possible threats, violence or ill treatment.
  • New section 114B should be inserted in Indian Evidence Act to ensure that in case person in police custody sustains injuries, it is presumed that those injuries have been inflicted by police, and burden of proof shall lie on authority concerned to explain such injury.

Compensation to victims:

  • For compensation to victims, courts should decide upon justiciable compensation after taking into account various facets of individual case, such as nature, purpose, extent and manner of injury, including mental agony caused to the victim.
  • The courts should also bear in mind socio-economic background of the victim and ensure that compensation will help victim bear expenses on medical treatment and rehabilitation.

UN Convention against torture and India:

  • India has signed the UN Convention against torture way back in 1997. But, it has still not ratified it.
  • The Convention defines torture as a criminal offence.
  • The centre contends some States were not in favour of such a law and the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code were more than sufficient.

About UN Convention against torture:

  • The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.
  • The Convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction, and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.

Source:TH, Wiki & Economic Times