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Role of NHRC

The National Human Rights Commission of India has played a very vital and important role in up keeping the faith of a common man in the criminal justice system of India.

  1. Death in police custody

The commission observed that death in police custody is one of the worst kinds of crimes in a civilized society governed by the rule of law and poses a serious threat to an orderly civilized society.

Torture in custody flouts the basic rights of the citizens and is an affront to human dignity. The National Police Commission in its 4th Report of June, 1980, noticed the prevalence of custodial torture and observed that nothing is “ so dehumanizing” as the conduct of the police in practicing torture of any kind on the person in their custody”.

The National Human Rights Commission having been constituted under the 1993 Act for better protection of Human Rights and civil liberties of the citizen has not only the jurisdiction but also an obligation to grant relief in appropriate cases to the victims or the heirs, whose Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution has been flagrantly infringed by the State functionaries by calling upon the State to repair the damage done by its officers to the Human Rights of the citizens.

The  Supreme Court in the case of Neelbati Behra v. State of Orissa, 1993, SCC 746, observed and ordered as under:

  1. The commission has taken a consistent stand that the obligation of the State to ensure safety of persons while in its custody is strict and absolute and admits no exception. The infeasible Right to Life of every citizen, including convicts, prisoners or under trials cannot be taken away except in accordance with the procedure established by law, while the citizen is in the custody of the State.
  2. It is now an established law that the failure of the State to take all possible steps to protect the life of the citizens while in its custody makes the state vicariously liable for its action or omission.
  3. “Immediate interim relief” envisaged in section 18(3) of the Act has to be correlated to the injury or loss which the victim or members of his family have suffered owing to the violation of Human Rights by public servants.

  1. Torture

The term torture with reference to police custody implies infliction of severe pain or suffering whether physical or mental torture. Custodial torture became a common phenomenon and routine police practice of interrogation these days. It causes momentary public uproar but once the incident fades away from the public everything is forgotten. The magnitude of police custodial torture in India is indicated by the Report of Amnesty International (1992) which says that “415 persons died in the custody of police and security forces due to torture during 1985-91”.

As per the crime statistics of the year 2002 published by NCRB, 84 custodial deaths were reported, 34 cases were registered, 32 policeman were charge-sheeted but none was convicted during that year.

The Supreme Court in case of Raghubir Sing v. State of Haryana, emphasized the need to organize special strategies “to prevent and punish brutality of police methodology otherwise the credibility of rule of law would deteriorate”.

The court noticed that these directives would help curb, if not totally eliminate, the use of questionable methods during interrogational an investigation leading to custodial violence.

  1. Death in judicial custody

When the death of the deceased takes place in the police custody, Commission issues a show-cause notice to the State government as to why an immediate interim relief under section 18 (3) of The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 be not granted to the next of the kin of the deceased.

The Commission held that the State is vicariously liable for the death of the under trial prisoner and if the death of the deceased was due to the negligence on the part of the jail authorities, State had to pay a sum reasonable to the next of the kin of the deceased under section 18(3) of the Act.


  1. Police harassment

Law enforcement agents are hired to serve the public. It is their duty to enforce the law, but that does not give them the authority to act lawlessly. They must also abide by the regulation outlined by the government and accord people certain rights. When officers act contrary to law and abuse their powers, they are often guilty of police harassment.

The Commission on 9 May 2001, reiterated the underlying principle and object of enacting section 18 (3) in The Protection of Human Rights Act 1993.


  1. Illegal detention and torture

The constitution contains some minimum procedural requirements which must be complied by procedure established by law Article-22 provides procedural safeguards against arrest or detention.

The safeguard contained under this article is available for every person that is citizen or non-citizen. The main object to provide these safeguard are available only for a criminal or quasi-criminal offences. Therefore, it does not apply when arrest is made under civil matters.

Article 22 guaranteed the following safeguard against arrest or detention made under the Right to be informed as soon as possible of the grounds of arrest or detention:

  1. Right to consult and to be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.
  2. Right to be produced before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours of arrest.
  3. Right not be detained in custody beyond- 24 hours without the authority of the magistrate.

  1. Violation of rights of SCs/STs

The National Human Rights Commission is expanding in the field of violation of rights of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

In examining this matter, the Commission observed that the Right to Health and Medical Care is a fundamental right under Article 21, read with Articles 39(e), 41 and 43 of the Constitution.

The Right to Life includes protection of the health and strength of workers and is a minimum requirement to enable a person to live with human dignity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as other International Instruments also speak of this right.

  1. Juvenile Justice:

The Juvenile Justice towards the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency and provides a framework for the protection, treatment and rehabilitation of children in the purview of the juvenile justice system.

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