Ethics: June 2021 Current Affair Current Affairs Notes | EduRev

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89                                                                                                                                                        
9. ETHICS 
9.1. CUSTODIAL CRIMES: SHOULD HUMAN RIGHTS BE THE COST OF 
JUSTICE?  
Introduction  
Custodial crime is any form of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of the accused by the police, 
whether it occurs during investigation, interrogation or otherwise. As per the report of National Crime Records 
Bureau (NCRB), the number of deaths in police custody between 2001 and 2018 was 1,727. But only 810 cases 
were reported, 334 were charge-sheeted out of which just 26 policemen were convicted. 
What are the motives and circumstances driving custodial crimes? 
The primary motive for taking an accused into custody is to extract information which aids the investigation of 
the case. Thus, the objective of taking the accused into custody is centered around pursuance of justice. But this 
pursuance becomes morally inept due to following reasons-  
• Crude methods of interrogation: The interrogation techniques at local level are still centered around 
intimidation of the accused which often boils down to violence.   
• Culture of torture and brutality: Torture, along with violent behavior has become an integral part of the 
police culture all over the country. For instance, the tragic deaths of P. Jayaraj and J. Benicks, a father -son 
duo in Thoothukudi (Tamil Nadu) in police custody showcase how being in ‘police custody’ has become 
synonymous to ‘brutality’.  
• Apathy of police administration towards the prisoners: A significant number of accused in police custody 
die by suicide or by violence perpetrated by fellow inmates. This highlights the poor conditions of custody 
and administrative apathy towards needs and rights of accused.  
• Perception of guilty until proven innocent: The treatment accorded to citizens accused of crime is similar to 
that given to citizens guilty of crime. This is not only true for the police administration but also at the societal 
level. This perception dehumanizes the accused for the police administration and hence absolves them of 
any potential guilt that they may experience.  
• Abuse of power for malicious intentions or personal reasons: The culture of torture alongside poor 
enforcement of accountability measures at times result in abuse of power which is devoid of pursuance of 
Justice.  
These issues are compounded by the internal issues faced by the police administration such as long-hours, 
political interference, and inadequate salaries. Further, it increases frustration and breeds disregard for rules and 
procedures within the system, leading to normalization of brutality and violence as a method for getting results.  
How custodial crimes impact people and society?  
Crimes happening in custody not only affect the accused but have an indirect impact on people and the societal 
fabric-  
• Betrayal of custodial trust: Custodial crimes violate the trust that is bestowed by the society as a collective 
in the Criminal Justice System. The result of this is that society loses faith in the system. The problem is 
further compounded when the public servant abusing the power is not held accountable for the committed 
crime.  
• Development of a culture of fear from police administration: The culture of violence instills fear in the 
minds of citizens towards police administration. The consequence of this development is that people avoid 
reporting of crimes and are fearful to ask for help. This indirectly worsens the law-and-order situation in the 
country.  
• Expanding the social divide in access to justice: Majority of the people who are victims of custodial crime 
belong to lower socio-economic strata of society. This is because most of them are not aware of their rights 
and have limited access to social or financial resources. This perpetuates the idea that access to justice is a 
reserve of rich and powerful and holds no meaning for poor and weak strata of the society.  
 
Page 2


 
89                                                                                                                                                        
9. ETHICS 
9.1. CUSTODIAL CRIMES: SHOULD HUMAN RIGHTS BE THE COST OF 
JUSTICE?  
Introduction  
Custodial crime is any form of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of the accused by the police, 
whether it occurs during investigation, interrogation or otherwise. As per the report of National Crime Records 
Bureau (NCRB), the number of deaths in police custody between 2001 and 2018 was 1,727. But only 810 cases 
were reported, 334 were charge-sheeted out of which just 26 policemen were convicted. 
What are the motives and circumstances driving custodial crimes? 
The primary motive for taking an accused into custody is to extract information which aids the investigation of 
the case. Thus, the objective of taking the accused into custody is centered around pursuance of justice. But this 
pursuance becomes morally inept due to following reasons-  
• Crude methods of interrogation: The interrogation techniques at local level are still centered around 
intimidation of the accused which often boils down to violence.   
• Culture of torture and brutality: Torture, along with violent behavior has become an integral part of the 
police culture all over the country. For instance, the tragic deaths of P. Jayaraj and J. Benicks, a father -son 
duo in Thoothukudi (Tamil Nadu) in police custody showcase how being in ‘police custody’ has become 
synonymous to ‘brutality’.  
• Apathy of police administration towards the prisoners: A significant number of accused in police custody 
die by suicide or by violence perpetrated by fellow inmates. This highlights the poor conditions of custody 
and administrative apathy towards needs and rights of accused.  
• Perception of guilty until proven innocent: The treatment accorded to citizens accused of crime is similar to 
that given to citizens guilty of crime. This is not only true for the police administration but also at the societal 
level. This perception dehumanizes the accused for the police administration and hence absolves them of 
any potential guilt that they may experience.  
• Abuse of power for malicious intentions or personal reasons: The culture of torture alongside poor 
enforcement of accountability measures at times result in abuse of power which is devoid of pursuance of 
Justice.  
These issues are compounded by the internal issues faced by the police administration such as long-hours, 
political interference, and inadequate salaries. Further, it increases frustration and breeds disregard for rules and 
procedures within the system, leading to normalization of brutality and violence as a method for getting results.  
How custodial crimes impact people and society?  
Crimes happening in custody not only affect the accused but have an indirect impact on people and the societal 
fabric-  
• Betrayal of custodial trust: Custodial crimes violate the trust that is bestowed by the society as a collective 
in the Criminal Justice System. The result of this is that society loses faith in the system. The problem is 
further compounded when the public servant abusing the power is not held accountable for the committed 
crime.  
• Development of a culture of fear from police administration: The culture of violence instills fear in the 
minds of citizens towards police administration. The consequence of this development is that people avoid 
reporting of crimes and are fearful to ask for help. This indirectly worsens the law-and-order situation in the 
country.  
• Expanding the social divide in access to justice: Majority of the people who are victims of custodial crime 
belong to lower socio-economic strata of society. This is because most of them are not aware of their rights 
and have limited access to social or financial resources. This perpetuates the idea that access to justice is a 
reserve of rich and powerful and holds no meaning for poor and weak strata of the society.  
 
 
90                                                                                                                                                        
Legal safeguards to protect the Rights of the accused 
Constitutional Indian Penal Code (IPC) and 
Criminal Procedure Code 
(CrPC) 
International 
Protection 
• Article 20 which 
includes no 
punishment on ex-
post-facto law, no 
double jeopardy 
and no self-
incrimination.  
• Article 21 is a 
broad right which 
encompasses 
Right against 
inhuman 
treatment, solitary 
confinement etc.  
• Article 22 provides 
for prevention 
from arbitrary 
detention.  
• Section 330 and 331 of 
IPC: When a police 
officer voluntarily 
causes ‘hurt’ or 
‘grievous hurt’ to extort 
confession.  
• Section 142 of IPC: 
Punishment for 
wrongful confinement.  
• Section 176(1) and 176 
(1A) of CrPC: An 
enquiry has to be held 
by the Judicial 
Magistrate or the 
Metropolitan 
Magistrate when a 
person dies, disappears 
or rape is committed on 
any woman.  
India has an 
obligation to fulfil 
or duly comply 
with certain 
International 
regulations, such 
as- 
• International 
Covenant on 
Civil and 
Political 
Rights, 1966 
(ICCPR) 
• Universal 
Declaration 
of Human 
Rights, 1948 
(UDHR). 
 
Custodial Crime: A void in application of Human Rights 
The national and international framework of human rights accords several rights to accused including Right to Bail, Right 
to Free Legal Aid, Right against Handcuffing, Right against inhuman treatment by the police, Right against arbitrary arrest 
etc. But all these safeguards are subject to enforcement, acknowledgement by the people in the system and 
awareness among the citizens.  
In the closed confines of police custody, the accused is at the mercy of the custodian i.e., the police administration. If the 
custodian does not acknowledge the human rights of the accused and the accused has limited awareness about these 
rights, it becomes extremely difficult to enforce them. Such a situation is not rare in India, resulting in compromised 
human rights situations in the custodial ecosystems.  
Several efforts have been made in the form of creation of National Human Right Commission (NHRC) or amendments to 
the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). But given the limited resources at their disposal and the laxity in our Criminal Justice 
System, it becomes difficult to bring guilty public servants to book.  
Justice Brande of the US Supreme 
Court emphasized “the Government 
is the most potent and omnipresent 
teacher that teaches the whole 
people by its example. If the 
Government becomes a law breaker, 
it breeds contempt for the law; it 
invites every man to become a law 
unto himself.” Such a situation 
cannot be allowed to arise in a 
civilized society.  
What can be done to root out the 
issue of custodial crimes?  
• Addressing the culture of 
torture: There have been efforts 
to counter the culture of torture 
by bringing about an Anti-torture 
law or adhering to the 
international covenants. But 
these laws will have to be 
accompanied by internal reforms 
within the administration and moving away from violence as an acceptable norm.  
• Creating deterrence: Strengthening the already prevalent safeguards such as Section 176 of CrPC (which 
deals with serious crimes like rape, death within the custody) and giving more powers to watchdog agencies 
like National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).  
• Regular training and sensitization of ground-level officers: They serve as the first point of contact and thus 
becomes important that they exhibit requisite emotional intelligence to balance pursuance of justice and 
respect of the human rights of the accused.  
• Creating awareness regarding human rights: Awareness of ‘rights of the accused’ among citizens can 
drastically reduce the incidence of custodial crimes as it creates a channel of accountability towards the 
police administration.  
The core reason behind such a system is the idea that perpetrators need to be punished for achieving justice. 
This mindset drives and justifies the violence against the accused. To root out this problem completely, it 
becomes important that we as a society move towards reformative justice i.e., the perpetrators need 
reformation and not punishment for ensuring justice in the society. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said- 
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”-  
 
 
 
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