Almost 600 people died in police custody in India in the five years up to 2015, a new report from Human Rights Watch says.
During that period, not a single police official was convicted of a custodial death, the report “Bound by Brotherhood,” from the New York-based organization said.
Deaths in custody are attributed to suicide, illness or natural causes, the report said, however “in many such cases, family members allege that the deaths were the result of torture,” Human Rights Watch said.
K. S. Dhatwalia, spokesman for India’s Ministry of Home Affairs said: “We will study the report and take appropriate action, whatever is required.”
Human Rights Watch said it conducted more than 70 interviews with police officials, victims’ families, justice experts and witnesses and it looked into 17 custodial deaths that happened between 2009 and 2015 for its report.
“Our research shows that too often, the police officers investigating deaths in custody are more concerned about shielding their colleagues than bringing those responsible to justice,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, the organization’s South Asia director.
The report also said Indian police often fail to follow arrest rules. When a person is arrested in India, they should be medically examined and produced to a magistrate in 24 hours. The report said that government data showed that 67 of 97 deaths in custody in 2015, police either failed to bring a person before a magistrate within 24 hours, or they died before that time.
The group recommends that the Indian government revise the penal code to include the criminal offenses of torture and enforced disappearances and enforce existing guidelines on arrest and detention, among other measures.
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