Police interrogation and human rights By Ishita Dutta @LEXCLIQ

The International Human Rights are binding upon all the states if they are subject to any treaty or convention. Many International conventions and organizations have emphasized on defining as to what basic Human Rights are. According to Article – 3 of the UDHR, everyone has the right to life, liberty and security and this ‘everyone’ includes each and every person whether a citizen or a refugee and whether a free or a detained person.

From the beginning of the 19th century, when there was no establishment of any International Organization, the brutal actions of the police took lives of many. There was a perception that the detention by the police will ultimately lead to consequences one cannot think of.

After the establishment of International safeguards, the rules for police officials when it comes to interrogation of the detained persons followed a set procedure. The concept of Human Rights was understood and it became a settled principle that the force must be used for the purpose of lawful enforcements.

Violation of human rights by police during interrogation

The Police generally have the right to interrogate any accused person for a limited period of time with the permission of the court. Interrogation is done in order to find the evidence or any other relevant information regarding the crime from the accused although, it is not easy to extract such information as it could be fatal for the accused. Under such situations, police use various methods to bring out the truth.

These methods are sometimes used to such an extent that it may lead to violation of the Human Rights and defeats the purpose of the Criminal Justice System. Since the deterrent theory of crime is not followed anymore, the right to punish vests with the court or the magistrate leaving the role of the police till the end of investigation.

Moreover, the Human Rights in India were violated during the period of Emergency, i.e., in 1975 when many people were detained by the police on the order of the Government without any warrant. Those who were protesting were tortured by the police officials during interrogation and there was no hearing for the same.

Legal vs illegal interrogation

There is a very thin line existing between what we can call a legal interrogation or not. Standardized equation has been established by many Countries as to what all parameters must be taken while interrogating a person and make sure that the basic human rights are not hampered.

In India, the arrested person has been given many rights including constitutional rights too. These rights are as follows-

  • Section – 41(D) of CrPC– It talks about the Right of arrested person to meet an advocate during interrogation. The person in police custody has been given this right to make sure that he is made aware about the legal remedies available to him. Although, one cannot take legal guidance throughout the interrogation process.
  • Section – 57 of CrPC– It states that a person must not be detained by the police for more than 24hrs and must be presented before the Magistrate within this time period. It ensures that the police have only 24 hours for a preliminary investigation and in case the time seems insufficient, the police may ask for the custody of the accused but only by the due consent of the Magistrate.

If the police are unable to present the arrested person before the Magistrate within 24hours, he/she must be released immediately or else, it would be considered as a case of wrongful confinement which is an offence under IPC.

It must be notes that the time specified as 24hrs excludes the travelling time i.e., the time taken by the police to take the accused to the court or vice-versa.

  • Section- 54 of CrPC– It provides a right for medical checkup of the arrested person by the medical officer before and after the interrogation takes place to ensure that the person has not been subjected to any cruel or brutal act of the police.

Here, an arrested woman must be examined by a registered female medical officer only.

Following the above-mentioned provisions amounts to a legal interrogation and fair investigation by the police whereas negating these rules and regulations amounts to an illegal interrogation and violates the human rights.

Landmark judgments

The Constitution also plays a major role in determining the powers of the police as well as the rights of the arrested person. The Supreme Court in its various Judgments has elaborated the scope of the same and has given landmark verdicts as discussed below.

Munshi Singh Gautam v. State of M.P.

In this case, the Court emphasized on the false claims of the people who regarding custodial torture by the police. The court held that such cases must be seriously examined and it must be understood that whether these cases are genuine or a mere sham attempt by the accused to gain benefits out of it.

Sube Singh v. State of Haryana and Others

In this case, the court laid down certain questions that must be examined in case of a custodial death or torture:

  • Whether the violation of Article 21 is patent and incontrovertible
  • whether the violation is gross and of a magnitude to shock the conscience of the court
  • whether the custodial torture alleged has resulted in death
  • Whether custodial torture is supported by medical report or visible marks or scars or disability.

If the court finds that there is no witness available in the case of a torture in custody and the person himself is a witness and it is not supported by any medical report, the court shall not grant any compensation to that person. Hence it can be said that the police interrogation is a vital part of criminal trial but it must be done without hampering the basic human rights of an individual and make sure that the justice is not undone.


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