The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010

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The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on April 26, 2010, and was passed by the Lok Sabha on May 6 (See Bill Summary here).  The Bill was not referred to a Standing Committee of Parliament.  The Bill has been introduced to allow India to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  The Convention against Torture requires member countries to bring their domestic legislation in conformity with the provisions of the Convention.  The main features of the Bill, and the issues are highlighted below (For the PRS Legislative Brief on the Bill, click here). Main features of the Torture Bill

Features Explanation
Definition of ‘torture’ A public servant or any person with a public servant’s  consent commits torture if all three conditions are met:
  1. An act results in (i) Grievous hurt to any person  (Grievous hurt as defined in the Indian Penal Code - includes damage to limbs or organs); or (ii) danger to life, limb or health (mental pr physical) of any person, and
  2. The act is done intentionally, and
  3. The act is done with the purpose of getting information or a confession.
When is torture punishable?
  1. When it is committed for gaining a confession or other information for detecting an offence, and
  2. The torture is committed on certain grounds such as religion, race, language, caste, or ‘any other ground’.
Conditions under which courts can admit complaints
  1. The complaint has to be made within six months of the torture having been committed.
  2. The approval of the central or state government appointing the accused public servant has been taken.

The definition of torture The definition of torture raises the following issues:

  • It is inconsistent with the definition of torture in the Convention against Torture which India seeks to ratify;
  • It does not include many acts amounting to torture which are punishable under the Indian Penal Code;
  • It adds a requirement of proving the intention of the accused person to commit torture.  Current provisions in the IPC do not have this requirement.
  • Grievous hurt does not include mental suffering or pain.

Dilution of existing laws on torture The Bill makes it difficult for those accused of torture to be tried.  This is because (a) complaints against acts of torture have to be made within six months, and (b) the previous sanction of the appropriate government has to be sought before a court can entertain a complaint.

Relevant provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code and the Bill.
Subject Criminal Procedure Code Bill
Requirement of government sanction Sanction needed if (a) a public servant is not removable except with the sanction of the appropriate government, and (b) the public servant was acting in the course of his duties. Prior sanction of the appropriate government needed in all cases.
Time limits for filing complaints Time-limits exist for offences punishable with maximum imprisonment of up to three years. No time limits for offences which are punishable with imprisonment of more than three years. There is a time-limit though torture is punishable with maximum imprisonment of up to ten years.  Complaints have to be filed within six months.
Sources: Sections 197 and 468 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973; PRS.

Independent authority to investigate complaints There is no independent mechanism/ authority to investigate complaints of torture. The investigating agency in most cases of torture would be the police.  In many cases, personnel of the police would also be  alleged to have committed torture.  In such cases, the effectiveness of investigations in incidents of torture will be affected.

Independent authorities in other countries to investigate incidents of torture.
Country Authority/ Institution
France Comptroller General of the places of deprivation of liberty
Germany The Federal Agency for the Prevention of Torture
New Zealand Human Rights Commission, Police Complaints Authority, Children’s Commissioner
United Kingdom 18 different organisations, including Independent Monitoring Board, Independent Custody Visiting Associations, etc.
Sources: National Preventive Mechanisms, UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture; PRS.

Police Personnel sent for trials under existing laws, and convictions