LS passes law against torture by govt servants

The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a Bill to provide up to 10 years of imprisonment to public servants responsible for torturing any person to elicit information or other purposes.

Last Updated: May 07, 2010, 00:15 AM IST

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a
Bill to provide up to 10 years of imprisonment to public
servants responsible for torturing any person to elicit
information or other purposes.

The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, was passed after
a brief debate with Home Minister P Chidambaram assuring the
House that the law will effectively put an end to unjustified
custodial interrogation of persons by a public servant to
extract information or a confession.

The law would ratify the Convention against Torture and
Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment
adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9th
December, 1975, which India had signed in October 1997.

Chidambaram said most cases of torture occurred when a
person was subjected to custodial interrogation.

"I have had serious reservations over custodial
interrogation. It will not be different to interrogate a
person in ordinary circumstances and in custody," he said.

"All interrogation should take place in a civilised
manner after telling the person his human right, right to have a
counsel, provided with food, water, rest and toilet breaks.
That is the way a civilised society will interrogate," he
added.

He said the law defined torture in a specific context and
in respect of torture in other circumstances, such as on a
prisoner by a jail official, the Indian Penal Code would come
into play.

"For circumstances when the jail official is extracting
information from the prisoner with respect to other prisoners,
the anti-torture law would apply," he said.

The Home Minister also clarified that the complaint need
not be necessary be filed by a victim and it could be done by
his relatives and friends.

"The anti-torture law is compliant with the Criminal
Procedure Code provisions relating to complainants," he said.

Earlier, Shashi Tharoor (Congress) participated in
the debate on a Bill for the first time as an MP and fervently
appealed to the House to pass the Bill unanimously.

Expressing dismay over the law being enacted 13 years
after India had signed the convention in 1997, Tharoor
referred to the Hollywood movie `Slumdog Millionaire` to
highlight how police tortured those in their custody, as was
depicted in the blockbuster.

"This kind of torture should not be allowed to happen.
Police torture is a colonial hangover. It is an instrument of
aggression," he added.

Though law and order was a state subject, the
Thiruvananthapuram MP said torture was not. "It is a moral
affront on every Indian, on values and aspirations of our
society. It is wrong, morally unjustified and legally unjust,"
he added.

Others to speak on the Bill were Arjun Ram Meghwal (BJP),
Shailendra Kumar (SP), A Sampath (CPM), B Mahtab (BJD) and P L
Punia (Congress).

PTI