There is no exception for human rights for the accused. Article 14 affords equal protection to all under the law and Article 21 includes within itself a guarantee against torture and assault by the State and/or its functionaries.[1] In the case of Tukaram and Anr. v. The State of Maharashtra[2], Madan B. Lokur, J. opined that “Custodial violence has always been a matter of great concern for all civilized societies. Custodial violence could take the form of third-degree methods to extract information; the method used need not result in any physical violence but could be in the form of psychological violence. Custodial violence could also include a violation of bodily integrity through sexual violence it could be to satisfy the lust of a person in authority or for some other reason”. Human rights are inalienable rights inherent in all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Therefore, any such mental or physical torture in the custody could amount to a gross violation of human rights.

International Conventions

India, being a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and is bound by the broad principles enshrined thereunder follow it.  In the case of K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, the court noted “India is a responsible member of the international community and the Court must adopt an interpretation which abides by the international commitments made by the country, particularly where its constitutional and statutory mandates indicate no deviation.”[3]

A)The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, which enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings and tries to safeguard human rights universally. Article 5 of the Declaration states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

B) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966

[1] D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, AIR 1997 SC 610.

[2] Tukaram and Anr. v. The State of Maharashtra 1978 Cr.L.J.1864 [ 25 ]

[3] K.S. Puttaswami (Retd.) v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is a multilateral treaty that aims to uphold and protect all the civil and political rights of individuals globally. Article 9(5) of the Covenant (ICCPR),  provides that anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

C) United Nations Convention Against Torture, 1987

The United Nations Convention Against Torture, which the UN General Assembly adopted in 1984, aims to curb torture and inhumane treatment in any form. A total of 136 countries have ratified this convention with India being a signatory to Convention.

Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993

The Protection of Human Rights Act provides for the establishment of the National and State Human Rights Commission(s) and bestows them with wide-ranging powers to prevent the violation of human rights. Section 12 of the Act empowers Commission(s) to intervene and take suo moto cognizance of cases that involve gross violation of Human Rights.

Human Rights Commission can visit jails or any institutions under the government where persons are detained for reformation and treatment and advise the government on the conditions of the inmates. As per Section 16 of the Act, during any stage of the inquiry, if the commission considers it necessary to inquire into the conduct of any person or feels the reputation of any person is being affected then the commission shall give an opportunity for the person to be heard and produce evidence to defend himself. Following such procedure, if any public servant is found to be guilty of the violation of human rights of any person, then the concerned government shall be made liable to pay compensation and damages to the affected person, and prosecution proceedings shall be initiated.[1] 

In the case of Nilabatibehera v. State of Orissa[2], the Supreme Court of India, while taking suo moto cognizance of the case via a letter received from Nilabati Behra who was seeking justice for her son who expired in police custody, made significant observations in regards to the right to life of undertrial prisoners. While considering the evidence placed before it, the Court ruled that it was a case of custodial violence and awarded the Petitioner, Ms. Nilabati Behera, a compensation of Rs. 1.5 lac using the powers bestowed upon it under Article 32 and 142 of the Constitution of India. The Court made a significant observation and laid the principle that monetary compensation ought to be provided under public law for violation of Fundamental Right, including those of undertrial prisoners. 

[1] Section 18, Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

[2] Nilabatibehera v. State of Orissa, (1993) 2 SCC 746


As held in the case of Bhagwan Singh v. the State of Punjab [1]The vulnerability of human rights assumes a traumatic torture when functionaries of the State whose paramount duty is to protect the citizens and not to commit gruesome offenses against them, in reality, perpetrate them”. The Preamble of ICCPR states that it is the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms. Although there are many laws against custodial violence, there are plenty of cases coming up day by day, therefore the government shall immediately take necessary actions to curb custodial violence.

[1]Bhagwan Singh v. the State of Punjab, (1992) 3 SCC 249


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