Author: Dhruv Khurana, Student at ICFAI Law School, Hyderabad.
Citation: AIR 1997 SC 610
Bench: Kuldip Singh and Dr. A.S. Anand
Date of Judgement: 18th December 1996
Original Copy: View
Issue in Question:
- Whether the prisoners under police custody have the right to life as under Article 21 of the Constitution of India?
- Whether custodial torture and killing by policemen is justified?
Background of the Case:
- In this case the petitioner is DK Basu who wrote a letter to the Supreme Court of India to draw their attention towards a certain news published in The Telegraph about the deaths of the people in police custody. He requested the Supreme Court to address his letter as a written petition. His request was granted and respondents were informed.
- The petitioner no. 2, Ashok Kumar Johri wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India while the petition was being considered. The letter addressed the attention towards the death of Mr. Mahesh Bihari from Pilkhana, who was in custody of Aligarh police. This letter was also requested to be treated as a written petition.
- The court issued an order for all the state governments and also for the law commission to submit their suggestions for this issue. Several states submitted the affidavit, which included West Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya, Maharashtra, and Manipur, in response to the notification of the court.
- Dr. A.M. Singh was made Amicus Curiae (Friend of the court) to assist the court in proceedings and all the candidates were present in the court.
- The apex court held that any form of cruelty and torture is prohibited and violates Article 21 which is right to life. The court referred to the case Nilabati Behera v State of Orissa, in which the Supreme Court of India held that the prisoners and individuals in custody cannot be deprived of their fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
- The court said that killing of prisoners in custody is not justified as they have the right to life. Their right to life under Article 21 of Constitution of India is not to be taken as granted and proper care should be taken to stop this. The apex court also referred to the case of Joginder Kumar v State of U.P., in which the UP police arrested a person without warrant and tortured him for information that was no use for them as he was not connected to the investigation.
- As a result the court decided to issue 12 guidelines in addition to the Constitutional and Statutory safeguards to stop this cruelty. These 12 guidelines included that the police personnel should have his particulars on who will interrogate the arrestee and the arrestee is entitled to inform his friends or relatives that he has been arrested mentioning a particular place to them.
- In the 12 guidelines, one of the guidelines also states that entry has to be done in diary informing the particulars of the arrested individual and the major or minor injuries, at the time of arrest, should be recorded and be written in “Inspection Memo”. It should be signed by the arrestee and the police officer who has arrested him.
- The apex court issued these 12 guidelines to control these custodian deaths and for the efficient working of the police without any of the incidents.
- The apex court gave this landmark judgement where guidelines were issued regarding the arrest of the individuals. These guidelines protect the arrestee from police cruelty and violence. These will ensure the efficient flow of the work without harming or injuring any individual.
- The court stated that the individuals who are in custody of the police have rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India which states the right to life. This will ensure that the arrestee’s fundamental rights are restored and any infringement of these rights will not be tolerated.
- The apex court said it is the duty of the state to protect the citizens and their rights as well. There should be an effective mechanism for the efficient process of these things without any violence and cruelty. Additionally, the guidelines issued under this case should be understood by the police officials so that they do not take law into their own hands.