Custodial Deaths in India by Yaminee Verma @LEXCLIQ

Custodial torture by police has been a hot topic of discussion for many years now. Until a few years back almost every other day there was some news or the other on the custodial deaths of prisoners. It is a fact that police resort to third-degree methods for obtaining confessions from the accused. Such methods often result in serious injuries and even death which is commonly known as custodial death. Over the years the reported incidents of custodial death have decreased but the actual figure is yet unknown. In this article, we will discuss about custodial deaths in detail.

Custodial Deaths-

Custodial deaths are the deaths or demise of prisoners or accused who are detained by police during pretrial or after conviction. Custodial deaths can be broadly classified into three types –

  1. Death in police custody;
  2. Death in judicial custody; and
  3. Death in custody of army or paramilitary force.

Causes of custodial deaths can be anything from poor heath to suicide by the accused, fight among the inmates or police brutality.

Custodial deaths in India-

India has seen numerous cases of custodial deaths for past many years. A few years ago, the Supreme Court had even made certain guidelines to stop custodial torture and deaths when a petitioner D.K. Basu filed a petition against such custodial deaths in the apex court. Apparently, after these guidelines were made, it is believed that the custodial deaths have decreased to a certain degree, but the actual scenario is far away from this belief.

A study shows that between 2001 to 2018, 1,727 persons have died in police custody (including the ones in judicial remand) and those who have been arrested but not yet produced before the court. On average, 96 persons die in custody every year.

The India Annual Report on Torture 2019, stated that there were a total of 1,731 custodial deaths in India. Out of those, 1,606 people died under judicial custody and 125 people died under police custody. This means that there were five such deaths daily. The report also mentions about the most common forms of torture which like electric shock, hammering nails in the body, applying chilly power on different parts of the body, branding with a hot iron, hanging upside down and beating, etc. These are some of the horrific treatments the person who dies in custody often goes through. Also, to note, most of the people dying in police custody belong to the oppressed classes who are not economically and socially empowered to fight the atrocities of the police.


Torture has been a favourite tool of many police officers for years now. It has been used to either extract information from the accused or done just to gain sadistic pleasure. The reason can be any but the torture has resulted in many custodial deaths over the years. It is seen that police officers enjoy great immunity and support from the government. For years now hardly any significant number of police officers have been convicted for custodial death of any prisoner. To stop the custodial deaths, the Supreme Court and the union government can have to step forward and take action. Amendment in the guidelines by the Supreme Court are the need of hour. Its high time that the courts take serious action in matters of custodial deaths only then such horrific acts can decrease.

Written by Yaminee Verma @LEXCLIQ

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