If you are looking to rage about the custodial deaths, you don’t have to go so far to the case of George Floyd. India is not far behind in the matters of death while in custody. While US protests against the deaths of African Americans by the police as an act of racism, South India is in an uproar with the death of father-son duo, Jayaraj and Fenix by the Thoothukudi Police. The unimaginable brutality by the police has triggered a lot of protest and outrage.
The horrific injuries that the father- son sustained before taking their last breath, has enraged a lot of people, who are now demanding for the police to be held accountable. A case as serious as this, needs to be met with justice. Having said that, this is not the first time that a death has taken place while in police custody in India. There has been a number of cases, where no police officer was held accountable for their heinous crime.
Highlighting the seriousness of the issue, on 26th June, National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) released an unnerving report. In its report, “India: Annual Report on Torture 2019”, NCAT states that during the year 2019, a total of 1,731 persons died in custody i.e. about 5 deaths, daily. Out of the total number, 125 deaths occurred in police custody, while the rest were in judicial custody.
According to the statement in their press release, “Out of the 125 deaths, 93 persons (74.4%) died during police custody due to alleged torture/foul play while 24 persons (19.2%) died under suspicious circumstances in which police claimed they committed suicide (16 persons), illness (7 persons) and injuries (1 person) while the reasons for the custodial death of five (4%) persons were unknown”.
Director of NCAT, Paritosh Chakma stated in the report, “Out of the 125 deaths in police custody, 75 persons or 60% belonged to the poor and marginalised communities. These included 13 victims from Dalit and tribal communities, 15 victims belonged to Muslim minority community, 37 victims were picked up for petty crimes such as theft/ burglary/ cheating/ selling of liquor illegally, gambling, etc. which indicate their economic status, three were farmers, one was labourer, one was a refugee, two were security guards, one was a rag-picker and two worked as drivers”.
The Director also accentuated that till date, no policemen has been convicted in the said case. He said, “There is absolute impunity to the perpetrators of torture. The National Crime Records Bureau under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India in its Crime in India reports from 2005 to 2018 revealed that with respect to the death of 500 “persons remanded to police custody by court”, 281 cases were registered, 54 policemen were chargesheeted but not a single policeman was convicted as on date.”
The report also pressed on the fact that in many cases, police made all the attempts to destroy incriminating evidence of torture by not conducting post-mortems or cremating the dead bodies of the torture victims in haste.