Nearly 5 custodial deaths daily in 2019-20, MHA tells LS

Nearly 5 custodial deaths daily in 2019-20, MHA tells LS

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New Delhi: Almost five persons died daily in custody in India in 2019-2020, according to data shared by the union ministry of home affairs (MHA) with Parliament on Tuesday.

The total number of people killed either in police custody or jails between April 1, 2019 and March 31 was 1,697. Of this, 1,584 died in judicial custody and 113 in police custody.

The most deaths in judicial custody, 400, were reported from Uttar Pradesh (UP) while the most in police custody, 14, were reported from Madhya Pradesh (MP). Tamil Nadu (TN) and Gujarat recorded 12 deaths each in police custody.

Police are often accused of high-handedness in India while dealing with people taken into custody. Tamil Nadu Police is already under the scanner for the killing of P Jeyaraj (58) and his son Benicks (37) inside a police station in Tuticorin on June 22. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is investigating the case.

MHA informed the Lok Sabha that while UP recorded maximum deaths (400) in judicial custody -- this usually includes deaths inside a jail or while taking an accused to a court -- the second-highest number of such deaths was reported from MP (143). This was followed by West Bengal (115), Bihar (105), Punjab (93) and Maharashtra (91).

The ministry hasn’t provided reasons for the deaths in police or judicial custody but government officials, who didn’t wish to be named, said the causes usually include illness, gang wars, suicides, or torture by the police or jail staff.

Senior lawyer and founder of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) Colin Gonsalves said: “These custodial deaths are not even a third of actual deaths. What they (police) do is that when a person dies, they take him to the hospital and then show on paper that he died inside the hospital. They make doctors write ‘died in hospital’ in the report”.

Raja Bagga, programme officer at Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), said: “The government data t doesn’t give exact reasons for deaths in many instances. For example, in certain deaths, the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) records the reason as ‘other’. We asked NCRB not to classify any deaths as such. There is a need to analyse in detail why these 1,700 odd deaths are taking place in police and judicial custody.”

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