By: Basantakumar Wareppa, Human Rights Alert
Mr. Ban Kin-moon, UN Secretary General once says, “Torture is a crime under international law. The prohibition of torture is absolute and unambiguous. Torture cannot be justified under any circumstances whatsoever, whether during a state of war or in response to terrorism, political instability or any other public emergency”.
However, in Manipur, increasing number of custodial torture leading to death over the past months virtually a matter in interrogation as a systematic trend clearly justify torture as necessary pattern to tackle the law and order situation.
Despite of having India’s legal obligation to combat torture, there is continuing pattern of torture. These patterns are clearly in breach of universally accepted norms of human rights particularly International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as the right against torture is absolute and non-derogable. The United Nations Code of Conduct has bolstered this for Law Officials Enforcement.
Every possible effort to address the issue of torture has been made by the torture victims with full support from Human Rights groups appear to have no meaning yet. At present, India has no functional domestic legal framework to address the question of torture. Lacking of legal framework is not only the sole reason but also non-implementation and misinterpretation of the existing little mechanism is other major factors. Implementing agencies often make the victims wrongly interpret/believe the available legal mechanism and such has a serious implication to address this issue.
In one such example, mandatory video filming of the post-mortem procedure for custodial death/encounter killing is presumed to be sought permission from concerned executive magistrate as a require legal step. But as per National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) letter No. 66/SG/NHRC/93 to the Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories dated 14 December 1993 clearly directed the concerned District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police is to report every custodial death to the Secretary General of the Commission within 24 hours. In another letter to all Chief Ministers of States dated 10 August 1995 that the post-mortem examinations done in respect of the death in police custody and jails should be video-filmed and cassettes be sent to the Commission along with post-mortem report. The Commission has further stated that the process of video-filming will involve extra cost but human life is more valuable than the cost of video-filming which was also reaffirmed in a latter No. NHRC/ID/PM/96/57 dated 2
7 March 1997. The Commission has also cautioned that the failure to report promptly would give rise to presumption that there was an attempt to suppress the incident.
To address the issue of torture, firm stand and determination of the victim could only make little hope. One respected teacher who himself was a torture victim has proof such a little hope. Mr. Gopeshor Singh is a respected member of his community due to his profession as teacher. It may be noted that Mr. Gopeshor was arrested by a team of Indian Army from 57 Mountain Division on 1 September 2007 after issuing an arrest memo as per the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in its judgment dated 18 December 1996.
Mr. Gopeshor was handed over to Nambol Police Station after subjected to torture during his detention under military custody the next day. The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), New Delhi has brought the matter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) with a subsequent complaint.
After three year of legal hurdle and systematic disturbance, Mr. Gopeshor received compensation of Rs. 25,000/- (Twenty five thousand only) following the specific recommendation by the NHRC vide letter number 24/14/4/07-08/UC dated 9 December 2010. In the recommendation to the Human Rights Cell of Additional Directorate General Discipline and Vigilance Adjutant General’s Branch, Head Quarter, Ministry of Defense (Army), DHQ, New Delhi to award a sum of Rs. 25,000/- (Rupees twenty five thousand only) for meeting the expenditure towards payment of compensation to Mr. Gopeshor.
In order to prevent such serious forms of violation of human rights and to make transparency and accountable, the authorities concerned is to follow legally establish procedure for the end of justice. Therefore, the recent bill on the Prevention of Torture which has been passed by the lower house of the Indian Parliament needs to incorporate the essence and spirit of the international human rights standards particularly UN Convention against Torture which the Government of India has already signed.
Note: This article is written dedicating to those survivors of torture to mark the observance of UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 2011.