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Death Sentence For Custodial Torture Deaths, Suggests Par Panel

PTI 07 Dec 2010, 16:15:00 IST
New Delhi, Dec 7: Stringent punishment, including life imprisonment or capital punishment, for death caused by torture in custody has been recommended by a Parliamentary panel.

The Select Committee on the Prevention of Torture Bill has also sought to bring employees of government-run educational institutions, government companies and organisations under the ambit of public servants.

It has recommended provision of compensation of at least Rs one lakh to the victims of torture.

"The definition of public servants has been widened to include government-run educational institutions, government companies and organisations...stringent punishment for acts of torture including life imprisonment or death sentence for death caused by torture in custody have been recommended," Chairman of Rajya Sabha Select Committee on the bill Ashwani Kumar told reporters.

The report and the amended bill were earlier presented in the Rajya Sabha.

To a question, Kumar said the provision of stringent punishment would also be applicable to employees of government-run schools if found guilty.

Provision of compensation for rehabilitation of torture victims has also been made in the proposed law.

Dependents of those whose death is caused by torture in custody will be entitled to be compensated. "The minimum amount will be Rs one lakh. There is no bar on the maximum amount," he said.

According to the recommendations, acts of sexual abuse against women and torture of children have been added in the indicative list. "The threat of rape is also an act of torture...this provision has been added," Kumar said.

In order to insulate government officials discharging their official duties diligently, against frivolous complaints the provision of prior sanction to prosecute has been retained in the amended bill.

"However, in order to check the abuse of sanctioning power, it has been recommended that in case no decision on the request to grant sanction (to prosecute) within three months of the complaint, sanction would be deemed to have been granted...Where sanction is denied, reasons have to be recorded which will be open for judicial scrutiny," he said.

The committee also fine-tuned the definition of torture to bring it in line with the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Kumar said among other provisions, the definition of 'torture' in the proposed bill was on the agenda and members felt that it was not clear in the present laws.

The proposed stand-alone law will help India ratify the UN Convention on prevention of torture which it had signed in 1997.

The bill will be applicable to armed forces and prevail upon Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in case of a complaint of torture.

A victim or an authorised representative can lodge a complaint of torture within two years of the date of alleged torture.

Those lodging complaint would be granted protection from harassment and an officer not below the rank of SP -- who is removed from the immediate hierarchy of the accused -- would investigate the allegation, the report said.

Due to lack of an enabling domestic legislation, India has so far not been able to ratify the convention.

The amended bill incorporating the recommendations of the panel will go back to the Union Cabinet and will be tabled in the Upper House. PTI