Press Trust of india

Most states including J&K silent on draft bill to punish public servants for torture

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New Delhi, Dec 30:  Most states including Jammu and Kashmir have maintained silence on a draft bill which seeks life in jail for public servants convicted of torture.

So far, only four states — Meghalaya, Sikim, Jharkand and Himachal Pradesh — have conveyed their agreements with the draft bill prepared by the Law Commission.

According to a Law Ministry note which was prepared for use in Lok Sabha Question Hour, the Centre had in November reminded all states to send their views on the draft ‘Prevention of torture bill, 2017’.

It had also asked for their views on a law panel report submitted to the Law Ministry in October, 2017 on a proposal to amend sections 330 and 331 of the Indian Penal Code to include ‘torture’ as a crime.

The proposal was sent to the Law Commission, then headed by Justice (retd.) B S Chauhan for its views.

The law panel submitted a report on implementation of the United Nations Convention against torture and also prepared the draft bill.

The report, as well as the draft bill, were sent to states for their views earlier this year as criminal laws are in the concurrent list and stands of the states are required.

Recommending life in jail for public servants convicted of torture, the Law Commission has said the government should ratify a UN convention to tide over difficulties in extraditing criminals from foreign countries due to the absence of a law preventing harsh treatment by authorities.

It also said in case the government decided to ratify the UN convention on torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, a bill should be introduced in Parliament to amend various laws to prevent torture by government officials.

The draft ‘Prevention of Torture Bill, 2017’ proposes “stringent punishment” to perpetrators to curb instances of torture and to have a deterrent effect. The punishment could extend up to life imprisonment and also include a fine.

The report submitted to the Law Ministry said the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, require amendments to accommodate provisions regarding compensation and burden of proof.

It recommended an amendment to section 357B of IPC to incorporate payment of compensation, in addition to the payment of fine provided in the Indian Penal Code.

The report, now in the public domain, said the Indian Evidence Act required the insertion of a new section 114B.

“This will ensure that in case a person in police custody sustains injuries, it is presumed that those injuries have been inflicted by the police, and the burden of proof shall lie on the authority concerned to explain such injury,” it said.

Referring to compensation to victims, it said the courts would decide upon a “justiciable compensation” after taking into account various facets of an individual case, such as nature, purpose, extent and manner of injury, including mental agony caused to the victim.

“The courts will bear in mind the socioeconomic background of the victim” and ensure that the compensation will help the victim bear the expenses on medical treatment and rehabilitation, the panel recommended.

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