The ministry hasn’t provided the reasons for these deaths in police and judicial custody
Almost five persons died daily in custody in India during the financial year 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, 2020 stood at 1,697.
The maximum number of deaths in judicial custody at 400 was reported from Uttar Pradesh (UP) and most police custody deaths at 14 were reported from Madhya Pradesh (MP).
Out of the total 1,697 custody deaths, MHA said 1,584 and 113 died in judicial and police custody, respectively.
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 under scanner for the killing of P Jeyaraj (58) and his son Benicks (37) inside a police station in Tuticorin on June 22.
At present, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is investigating the case.
According to the latest MHA data, while UP recorded maximum deaths (400) in judicial custody, which usually includes inside a jail or while taking an accused to a court, the second-highest such deaths were reported from MP (143), followed by West Bengal (115), Bihar (105), Punjab (93) and Maharashtra (91).
The MHA said in its reply that altogether 112 encounters were reported from all the states/union territories (UTs) during this period — between April 2019 and March 2020 — out of which the maximum took place in Chhattisgarh (39), followed by UP (26) and Jharkhand (6).
The ministry hasn’t provided the reasons for these deaths in police or judicial custody.
However, officials, who didn’t wish to be named, said usually such deaths take place due to torture by police, jail staff, suicides, illness, and gang rivalries inside prisons.
There are a total of 1,350 prisons across the country, which have a cumulative capacity to lodge 4,03,739 prisoners.
But almost all the jails are overcrowded, the MHA data revealed.
Currently, there are 4,78,600 inmates lodged in all the prisons. UP’s 72 jails have the highest number of inmates at 1,01,297, while the capacity is 60,340.
In his written reply in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Union minister of state (home affairs) G Kishan Reddy said that the Centre has issued an advisory on July 13 to all the states and UTs requesting them to sensitise and direct all the functionaries of the state, district and below level to follow and adhere to law of the land and the guidelines issued by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on custodial deaths, and to act firmly against any abuse of law in respect of custodial deaths.
He added that members, special rapporteurs and senior officers from NHRC carry out periodical visits to various jails to evaluate the living conditions and make recommendations for better protection of human rights.