Poor account for 71% of custodial deaths in India

Celebrities or rich people often get reprieve by claiming to suffer from kleptomania, says anti-torture group

December 10, 2020 12:34 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 10:33 pm IST - GUWAHATI

A view of Human Rights Commission building (Manav Adhikar Bhawan), in New Delhi. File

A view of Human Rights Commission building (Manav Adhikar Bhawan), in New Delhi. File

Data culled from the annual reports of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) from 1996-97 to 2017-18 have revealed that 71.58% of the custodial deaths in India were of people from poor or marginalised sections of society, said a statement by an anti-torture group issued on Thursday to mark the United Nations Human Rights Day.

According to the New Delhi-based National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT), the NHRC had cited 95 illustrative cases of custodial deaths during the 11 fiscals ending 2017-18. The victims in 68 cases comprising 71.58% were from poor families while three victims accounting for 3.19% of the cases were from middle-class families.

The economic background of 24 victims or 25.26% of the cases could not be ascertained.

The victims of custodial deaths have been people of certain communities in some States, the NCAT said.

For instance, the Chakma and Hajong groups “face serious discrimination as descendants of migrants from East Pakistan” in Arunachal Pradesh.

“The NHRC recorded a total of 15 deaths in police custody during 2014-2015 to 2018-2019 in the State. Of these 15, three were from the Chakma community... It is clear that Chakmas with 3% of the total population constituted about 20% of the deaths in police custody. These custodial deaths expose the non-existent criminal justice system for the targeted and discriminated groups like the Chakmas,” the NCAT said.

The NHRC data also point to class division, NCAT’s coordinator Suhas Chakma said.

“A poor person lifting something is immediately accused as a thief and often beaten by the public or the police. But a celebrity or a rich person caught in a similar act may claim to suffer from kleptomania, an illness. This class division has a devastating impact on the administration of the criminal justice system in India,” he added.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.