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SC plea says police use 'colonial coercive machinery', seeks norms to curb custodial death


New Delhi: In the backdrop of the alleged custodial death of father-son, Jayaraj and Bennix, in Tamil Nadu, a plea has been moved in the Supreme Court seeking laying down of guidelines to prevent custodial torture/ deaths/ rape.

The petition moved by People's Charioteer Organization (PCO), through its secretary legal cell Devesh Saxena contends that paradoxically, Indian police system under Indian Police Act, 1861 continues to have colonial coercive machinery which was modelled on Irish colonial paramilitary police.

"We had a historic break from dreadful past when we drafted our Constitution which guaranteed a set of fundamental rights, including the most precious right of life and liberty. But, we failed to eliminate the colonial attitude of our police and allowed it to continue with the same archaic law such as The Police Act, 186," claimed the plea.

The plea contended that custodial violence casts serious doubts about the transparency, accountability and functioning of the police hierarchy and goes against the basics of ethics, culture, and human rights jurisprudence.

"Custodial deaths violate not only democratic fabric and human rights aura but badly undermines the rule of law and constitutionalism as envisaged in our supreme law of the land," argued the plea.

The plea has argued that an unreformed Indian police system has also shown itself to be pliable and amenable to political manipulation and the police power becomes a tool in the hands of the state to demonstrate their political authority particularly against their rivals.

"The Executive Committee of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) issued a statement on the deaths of Jayaraj and Bennix, stating that the said incident is an acute demonstration of a broken criminal justice system, also urging the Government of India to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture, 1985 to which India is already a signatory since 1997," said the plea.

The petitioner urged the top court to direct the Centre to form an Independent committee monitored by the court consisting of members from all the relevant departments/ministries which can review the entire legal framework and find pitfalls in the existing legal framework in order to curb the menace of custodial torture/deaths/rapes.

The CBI has now filed two cases in the Tuticorin custodial deaths. P. Jayaraj , 59 and his son J. Bennix, 31, were arrested on June 19 and lodged in Kovilpatti sub-jail for keeping their mobile phone shop in the main market of Sathankulam town open during the coronavirus lockdown curfew. The father and son were allegedly tortured in the police custody and then admitted to the Kovilpatti government hospital on June 22. While the son died the same night, the father passed away on June 23.

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