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SC to hear plea for mandatory judicial probe in cases of custodial death, rape

SC to hear plea for mandatory judicial probe in cases of custodial death, rape

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday agreed to hear a petition seeking mandatory judicial probe in cases related to death, disappearance and alleged rape in police custody or in jail.

The plea filed by human rights activist Suhas Chakma said that though section 176 (1A) of CrPC provides for judicial inquiry into such cases, the provision is not being implemented.

A bench of Justices R F Nariman and S Ravindra Bhat issued notice to the Centre and sought its reply in four weeks.

The plea said Section 176(1A) of the CrPC uses the word "SHALL" and therefore it should be mandatorily implemented.

"Securing judicial inquiries into death or disappearance of a person or alleged rape in custody is indeed an uphill task and an insurmountable political battle, despite the law providing for mandatory judicial inquiries into such offences," the plea said.

Since its enactment, the section has been left untouched and has not been implemented, leading to rising custodial crimes, it said. The plea referred to National Crime Records Bureau's (NCRB) annual report which recorded death or disappearance of 1,303 persons in police custody (827 persons not remanded to police custody by court and 476 persons remanded to police custody by courts from 2005 to 2017).

The report also recorded that out of the total 827 cases of "death or disappearance of persons in police custody without court remand", judicial inquiry was ordered only in 166 cases, it said.

"Despite mandatory requirement under Section 176(1A), judicial inquiry was not ordered in 661 cases or eight per cent of the cases," Chakma said in his plea.

He said that death or disappearance of persons not remanded to police custody by court is nothing but murder of the defenceless citizens, who have appeared after being summoned by the police or already taken into custody.

"The death or disappearance of these defenceless citizens/persons expose the abysmal failure of the laws relating to arrest and detention, and contempt for the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in D K Basu versus State of West Bengal," the plea said.

It said that 476 cases of "death or disappearance of persons in police custody with court remand", judicial inquiry was ordered only in 104 cases which is 21 per cent of the total cases.

"In the remaining 372 cases which is 79 per cent of the cases judicial inquiry was not ordered in clear violation of Section 176(1A) CrPC," the plea said.

Chakma said that it is assumed that courts will ensure the rule of law to protect the lives and liberties and therefore, production of any person arrested or detained before the courts within 24 hours of such arrest excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate is guaranteed under Article 22 of the Constitution.

"Once a person is brought before the Court and the court orders remand, judiciary also becomes a party for protection of the right of the life of the person. The death or disappearance of persons in police custody after court grants remand and the failure to order judicial inquiry as per Section 176(1A) is a colossal and unconscionable failure of the lower judiciary," it said. The petition said that the poor implementation of Section 176(1A) CrPC, lack of proper investigation and seriousness into death or disappearances in police custody appears to have ended up providing

impunity.

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