Legal Article

Constitutional safeguards against the custodial tourture

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow


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Published on: 5 Jun, 2023

To prevent and address custodial torture, the Indian Constitution provides several fundamental rights and safeguards. These safeguards aim to protect individuals from any form of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment while in custody. Some of the key constitutional safeguards against custodial torture in India include:

  1. Article 21 – Right to Life and Personal Liberty: Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty. It is one of the most fundamental and comprehensive provisions that protect individuals from arbitrary arrest, detention, and custodial torture. The Supreme Court of India has interpreted Article 21 expansively to include the right to live with human dignity, which inherently prohibits any form of torture or cruel treatment.
  2. Article 20(3) – Protection Against Self-Incrimination: Article 20(3) states that no person accused of an offense shall be compelled to be a witness against themselves. This provision protects individuals from being forced to make self-incriminatory statements, including confessions, under duress or torture while in custody.
  3. Article 22 – Protection Against Arbitrary Detention: Article 22 provides certain procedural safeguards for arrested individuals. It includes the right to be informed of the grounds of arrest, the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of choice, and the right to be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. These safeguards aim to prevent prolonged and arbitrary detention, which could lead to custodial torture.
  4. Article 32 – Right to Constitutional Remedies: Article 32 grants individuals the right to move the Supreme Court of India directly for the enforcement of their fundamental rights. In cases of custodial torture, victims or their representatives can approach the Supreme Court seeking immediate relief and redressal.
  5. Article 226 – Power of High Courts to Issue Writs: Article 226 empowers the High Courts of India to issue writs for the enforcement of fundamental rights. This provision allows individuals to seek protection against custodial torture at the state level.
  6. Directive Principles of State Policy: While Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) are not enforceable in courts, they serve as guiding principles for the state. DPSPs include Article 39, which directs the state to ensure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, including ensuring that the accused are not victims of injustice or denied basic human rights.
  7. International Conventions: While not specifically constitutional safeguards, India is a signatory to various international conventions, including the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). These conventions reinforce the commitment to eradicate custodial torture and hold perpetrators accountable.

Judicial Interpretation

The Indian judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, has played a significant role in interpreting and expanding the scope of these constitutional safeguards to protect individuals from custodial torture. Courts have ruled that any evidence obtained through custodial torture is inadmissible as evidence in court, in line with Article 20(3) of the Constitution.