States mislead apex court on custodial deaths

West Bengal, Assam, MP and Punjab in their affidavits filed in Supreme Court have claimed that from the year 2007 to 2009 not a single case of custodial death took place in the entire states. The figures provided by the NHRC on custodial deaths in these states contradict those which are mentioned by these states in their affidavits.

For West Bengal, NHRC puts the number of custodial deaths to be 12 as against zero mentioned by West Bengal. In Assam, the NHRC record shows 27 custodial deaths against zero claimed by the state. In Punjab, NHRC claims 12 custodial deaths against zero by the state. In Madhya Pradesh, NHRC has mentioned 25 custodial deaths whereas the state mentions only one. This stark contrast was brought to the Supreme Court’s notice on 11 February by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi who appeared as an amicus curae. Singhvi said, “There is great diversion regarding figures mentioned in the affidavit and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) record that was placed before Parliament by the minister.

NHRC collects the information from the state governments itself.” For a single custodial death in Madhya Pradesh, the government paid only Rs 500 to the victim’s family. The Bench comprising Justice B Sudershan Reddy and Justice SS Nagar taking strong note of the discrepancy asked Singhvi to submit his recommendation along with guidelines that can help prevent custodial deaths in future.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2011 on page no. 3

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