TN Govt must end impunity for police officers involved in Thoothukudi custodial deaths
Bangalore / New Delhi: 27 June 2020 7:46 am
59-year-old P Jayaraj and his 31-year-old son J Bennicks were picked up for questioning by the Thoothukudi police in Tamil Nadu for keeping their shop open during the lockdown imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were allegedly tortured by the police while in custody, leading to their deaths.
While Bennicks fell ill and died on 22 June, his father died on the morning of 23 June.
Reacting to this, Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India said:
“The deaths of Jayaraj and Bennicks once again signal towards India’s continuing failure to hold its police accountable. The poor conviction rates in cases of custodial torture and deaths have further created a climate of pervasive impunity, emboldening the police officers. This must end now. According to the 2018 National Crimes Record Bureau data, Tamil Nadu accounted for the second highest deaths in custody. But not a single police personnel was arrested.”
“The Tamil Nadu State government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the torture meted out by its police officers. It must show firm resolve by punishing the police officers involved and ensuring that Jayaraj and Bennick’s families get justice. Despite torture and other forms of ill-treatment being outlawed in international law for over three decades, they are still not recognized as distinct crimes under Indian law. However, courts have ruled that torture violates constitutionally guaranteed rights to life and personal liberty, and that the state has an obligation to prevent it”, said Avinash Kumar.
According to a report filed by the online news website, The Print- Going back to the last 20 years — 1997 to 2016 — for which data for across India is available, there were 790 deaths in custody, over 385 policemen were charged and over 120 such cases were dismissed by courts after a charge sheet was filed. In all, just eight police personnel were convicted for such crimes.
India signed the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment in 1997, but has not yet passed domestic legislation that will enable it to ratify the Convention. In 2010, the Prevention of Torture Bill was introduced and passed by the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) without any public consultation or debate. The Bill was significantly flawed, and fell far short of the requirements of the Convention against Torture in several respects. The Bill lapsed in 2014, with the end of the government’s term.
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