SC directs states to give feedback on Centre's draft law on custodial torture

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was informed by Attorney General K K Venugopal that the central government has circulated the draft bill to all the states for their feedback.

Published: 23rd January 2019 08:15 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd January 2019 08:15 AM   |  A+A-

Supreme Court

Supreme Court (File | PTI)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed chief secretaries of all state governments to give within three weeks their feedback on the Centre's draft law to prevent custodial torture and inhuman treatment as India was a signatory to the United Nations' convention on torture.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was informed by Attorney General K K Venugopal that the central government has circulated the draft bill to all the states for their feedback.

He told the bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna, that so far only seven states have given the feedback to the Law Ministry and other state governments are yet to respond.

"Having heard the Attorney General on behalf of Union of India, we direct the chief secretaries of all state governments to send their feedbacks within three weeks from today," the bench said, adding that in the event of failure, the chief secretaries will have to appear in person before it on February 13.

Former Law Minister Ashwini Kumar, who has filed a PIL on the issue, said there was no need for taking feedback from states as it was only delaying the framing of law.

"It has nothing to do with the law and order which is said to be under the domain of the states. India is the signatory of the UN convention and the law should have been made. People are dying everyday in custody," he said.

"If the legislation is going to touch the rights of the states then is there anything drastically wrong in seeking views of the states," the bench asked.

The bench has now posted the matter for hearing on February 13.

Earlier, the court had decided to examine afresh the plea seeking direction to the government to frame a law to prevent custodial torture and inhuman treatment.

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 Kumar, who is a Congress leader, was disposed of on November 27, 2017, and since then there has been no progress, prompting him to approach the court again.

The Rajya Sabha MP had narrated the sequence of events as to how the bill was passed in Lok Sabha in 2010, but Upper House sent it to the select committee.

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 every day, he said.

Prior to this, the apex court had noted the statement of the Attorney General that the government was looking into the issue with "all seriousness" and had decided to dispose of the PIL.

Kumar, in his PIL, 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.

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