The concept of Custodial Death is not new for the Indian Society. Since the British rule, people have been dying in the police custody during investigation. India has time gaian witnessed the basic fundamental rights of the prisioners being shattered and the use of coercion and torture to take the favourable statement. The police administration is always criticized for custodial deaths, torture and the use of unlawfull means during the investigation.The term Custodial Death can be defined as death of person in the custody of police, prision service or other authorities. Its legal validity is till date a controversial issue. Thoug the authorities are legally bound to provide adequate necessary amenities and ensure the safety of the inmates by providing them a healthy environment which includes timely medical assistance, but the real scenario is different from what the legal implications suggest. It is also seen that mostly the persons belonging to poor sections of the society or the ones from the depressed cast or lower cast face this cruelty in the prision.


It has been observed that in the past decade the toll of death in police lockup is on the rise. Many deaths have occured while in detention but so far no attention has been paid. In India the police lock-ups are solely managed by the police personnel and such incidents are only possible by their actions. There was a public uproar in West Bengal against the monstrous acts of the police against the faultless citizens.

The government of India allows torture, so inflicted in police lock-ups, considering it necessary for the administration of justice while providing impunity to the law enforcement officers. It is believed that the court lock-ups be governed by the judiciary. Although it is seen that even the magsitrates are dependent on the police officers for their judicial functions. The root of all these evil actions lies in vesting enormous judicial powers to the police officials.




The powers given to a police administration for the purpose of dealing with crimes in the society are many times used by them to implicate innocent and poor people in false and fabricated cases. It is a accepted fact that such arrests mostly lead to immense physical and mental torture on the person arrested, due to which, he or she ultimately commits suicide in the prision or dies because of torture. The National Police Commission in 1981 admitted that around 60% of total arrests made by police are unnecessary and unjustified. One of the most reported cases regarding illegal detention was of the two adivsis boys by Kerela Police in the year 2004-05, where the police officials arrested three Adivasis and they were kept in illegal custody for 23 days and were subjected to physical tourture by the police. There have been many reported cases of illegal arrest but in the course of time nor the people who were subjected to torture gets justice nor the police personnel is held liable for misusing their powers.


There are various causes of Custodial Violence. Police system is the main arm of democracy that deals with the common man directly. Hence there arises A urgent need to prevent abuse of the power and direct it in the right direction.

There are many elements which constitutes Custodial Violence in recent times.

     1.     The infliction of severe mental or physical pain or suffering

     2.     With the consent of State Authorities

     3.     For a specific purpose of such as gaining important informationor Indimidation.



The Supreme Court of India declared
Any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment would be offensive to human dignity and constitute an inroad into this right to live and it would, on this view, be prohibited by Article 21 unless it is in accordance with procedure prescribed by law, but no law which authorizes and no procedure which leads to such torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment can ever stand the test of reasonableness and non-arbitrariness: it would plainly be unconstitutional and void as being violative of Articles 14 and 21.

In the landmark case of D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, the Supreme court of India observed in this widely publicized death in police custody that using torture to impermissible and offensive to Article 21. The court noted the omnipresence of torture and third-degree methods in police investigations and mourned the growing incidence of torture and deaths in police custody and held:
Such a crime-suspect must be interrogated indeed subjected to sustained and scientific interrogation determined in accordance with the provisions of the law.

The Supreme Court of India ruled that the burden of explaining a custodial death lay on the police rather than the victim. The court granted compensation on the constitutional basis in public law for the infringement of fundamental rights. It referred to its duty to enforce Fundamental Rights under Articles 14,21 and 32 of the Indian constitution and the need to make the guaranteed remedies effective and to provide complete justice.

Article 21(1) and 22(2) of the Constitution are also relevant for the present purpose, because one of their objects is to ensure that certain checks exist in the law to prevent abuse of power of arrest and detention.

Article 21(1) provides that no person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed as soon as possible of the ground for such arrest, nor shall he be detained the right to consult and to be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.

Article 22(2) provides that every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24hours of such arrest, excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to court of Magistrate and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the prescribed period without the authority of a Magistrate.


Police is the machinery which controls crime. If crime takes place in police custody, then we must lean towards some other machinery to curb it. Despite, we have many provisions in our Indian laws, custodial violence continues to exist. It is the duty of the prison administration to provide proper facilities of medical, sanitation, food, security to the prisoners and a monitory body to only review it but also keep an eye on the other activities inside the prison.

 Rounak Mohapatra
KIIT School of Law,
Bhubaneswar Odisha.