NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Tuesday decided to examine afresh a plea seeking direction to the government to frame a law to prevent custodial torture and inhuman treatment as India was a signatory to the United Nations' convention on torture.
The apex court is revisiting the issue after more than a year as it was told that no progress was made in this regard even after an assurance was given that the government was looking into the matter with "all seriousness".
The PIL filed in 2016 by former law minister and Congress leader Ashwini Kumar was disposed of on November 27, 2017 and since then there has been no progress, prompting him to approach the court again.
When the matter came up for hearing, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand submitted to a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that some more time would be required to make the legislation as the draft bill has been sent to the state governments.
Kumar responded in affirmative when the bench wanted to know whether there was any proposed draft legislation on the subject matter.
He said it was before a select committee of Parliament.
The Rajya Sabha MP narrated the sequence of events as to how the bill was passed in Lok Sabha in 2010, but Rajya Sabha sent it to the select committee.
He said the bill lapsed and the NDA government came has done nothing and even in Parliament in a reply to a question it was stated that five custodial deaths were being recorded everyday.
When he drew the attention to the affidavits filed by the government on the need for the legislation in view of the UN Convention, the bench said since a petition was disposed of earlier, there was a need to call all the records again.
"List the matter on January, 22, along with all the connected records, including the affidavits filed by the respective parties," the bench said while adjourning the matter.
Earlier, the apex court had noted the statement of Attorney General K K Venugopal that the government was looking into the issue with "all seriousness" and had decided to dispose of the PIL.
Kumar, in his PIL, had sought directions to frame an effective law on the issue and empower agencies like the NHRC with necessary enforcement capabilities and mechanisms to implement its orders and directions.
The Congress leader had asked the bench not to dispose of the PIL and keep it at abeyance to see as to how things move on legislation front.
The plea was then rejected.
He had said that despite being a signatory to the United Nations' Convention Against Torture, 1997, India has not ratified the convention so far since ratification required enabling legislation to reflect the definition and punishment for 'torture'.
He had contended that the Centre should have comprehensive and stand-alone legislation against torture.
The plea had sought a direction to the Centre to ensure an effective law and its enforcement to fulfil constitutional promise of human dignity and prevention of custodial torture.
It had sought the issuance of guidelines for timely and effective investigation of complaints of torture and custodial violence and directions be given to the government for rehabilitation and compensation for the victims.
The government had earlier said a writ petitioner cannot seek legislation through the court as the issue fell under the domain of the executive and the legislature.