As many as 5,221 people died in judicial custody in India in the past three years, the Ministry of Home Affairs informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. The ministry added that348 people died in police custody.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai made this statement while replying to a question by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Ramkumar Verma.
Uttar Pradesh recorded the most deaths in judicial custody (1,295), followed by Madhya Pradesh (441), West Bengal (407) and Bihar (375).
Gujarat recorded the most deaths in police custody (42), followed by Madhya Pradesh (34), Maharashtra (27) and Uttar Pradesh (23).
Overall, 1,940 custodial deaths were reported in 2020-2021, while there were 1,696 deaths in 2019-2020 and 1,933 deaths in 2018-2019.
In reply to a separate question on Wednesday, Rai dismissed reports of increasing deaths in police custody. “No such increasing trend has been noticed,” he said.
The minister also noted that police and prisons are state subjects under the Constitution. Curbing such deaths is the responsibility of the state governments, he added.
“Pursuant to the guidelines issued by the NHRC [National Human Rights Commission] every death in custody, police or judicial, natural or otherwise, is to be reported to the Commission within 24 hours of its occurrence,” Rai stated in his reply.
He added: “If an enquiry by the Commission into custodial death discloses negligence by a public servant, the Commission recommends to authorities of Central/State governments initiation of proceedings for prosecution against the erring public servant.”
An analysis by Indiaspend notes that from 2010 to 2019, most deaths in police custody were attributed to either illness and natural causes (40%), or to alleged suicide (29%). The data shows that while 1,004 deaths took place in police custody during this period, only four police personnel were convicted (one in 2010 and three in 2013).
On August 8, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had expressed his concern about human rights violations at police stations in the country. “The threat to human rights and bodily integrity are the highest in police stations,” he had said.