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Brutal police kill at least four a day in custody
PALLAVI SHAHI  NEW DELHI | 11th Dec 2011

ttar Pradesh registered the maximum number of custodial deaths between April 2010 and March 2011, according to a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) report tabled in the Rajya Sabha last week. At 331 casualties, Uttar Pradesh led Bihar (136) and Maharashtra (130). The NHRC report tabled by the Minister of State of Home Affairs Jitendra Singh in the winter session placed the total number of custodial deaths in the country at 1,574.

Another report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights, which compiled the number of custodial deaths between 2001 and 2010, gives the figure of 14,231 for the ten-year period. At this rate India registers more than four deaths every day in police and judicial custody. The report says that 1,504 deaths took place in police custody and 12,727 deaths in judicial custody between 2001-2002 and February 2010. A large majority of these deaths are a direct consequence of torture in custody. But experts say that these do not reflect the extent of torture in India.

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Experts feel that reports on custodial deaths reflect only a fraction of the real numbers, as many incidents of death in police and prison custody go unreported. Only about 50% of the cases manage to get reported and highlighted.

"Custodial deaths are plain and simple murder. Moreover, the reports by NHRC reflect only a fraction of the real numbers, as many incidents of death in police and prison custody go unreported. Only about 50% of the cases manage to get reported and highlighted. Also, the NHRC does not have any jurisdiction over the armed and paramilitary forces. With SSB, CRPF and the Army having the power to arrest but no responsibility to report to the NHRC, there is a huge lacuna between the real and the reported numbers," said Suhas Chakma, director with Asian Centre for Human Rights.

esponding to the figures, B.P. Sharma, IG Crime, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh said, "UP is the most populous state in India so much so that the next state is only half the size of UP in terms of number of people. Therefore, it is only natural there will be a larger number in UP's case, but then again it is erroneous to dwell on numbers of incidents alone. A true picture can only emerge if we try to see and compare the number of deaths per lakh population. If we do that I am sure Uttar Pradesh will not feature even in the top ten states." According to statistics provided by Sharma, UP has the 11th spot among the states, with a custodial death rate of .116%.

Custodial deaths recorded between April 2010 and March 2011.

Experts blame custodial deaths and torture on the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 not being passed by Parliament. "These murders will continue unless the government removes the immunity given to paramilitary forces and the Army, but the government does not have any seriousness towards the matter. The Ministry of Human Affairs, year after year, places the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 before parliamentarians in a ritualistic manner without any intent to bring a law in accordance. The bill as drafted is very close to the UN convention against torture. And since the bill has been drafted by common consensus among all parties, P. Chidambaram should table it as soon as possible and not sit on it," Chakma added.

 
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