NHRC issues fresh guidelines regarding intimation of Custodial Death

In order to streamline the procedure of intimating the details of custodial deaths, the National Human Rights Commission has issued fresh guidelines to all State Governments. The Commission had issued general instructions in 1993 that within 24 hours of occurrence of any custodial death, the Commission must be given intimation about it. These intimations were to be followed with Post-mortem Reports, Magisterial Inquest Reports/Videography Reports of the postmortem etc.

However it had been found that there was considerable delay in sending these reports, which further delayed the processing of cases of custodial violence in the Commission and the awarding of interim relief wherever prima-facie, there was reason to conclude that custodial death had taken place due to custodial violence. Of the total cases of death in police custody reported in the period 1999-2000, the maximum number of cases for which inquiry reports are still awaited are - 28 from Maharashtra, followed by 19 from West Bengal, 17 from Uttar Pradesh, 12 from Madhya Pradesh, 11 from Andhra Pradesh, 11 from Assam, 11 from Gujarat, 10 from Punjab and 9 from Tamil Nadu. On the whole, out of a total of 177 cases of death in police custody, registered in the period 1999-2000, the Commission is yet to receive the full reports in 165 cases. In the context of deaths in judicial custody, maximum reports are awaited from Bihar – 112, followed by 89 from Maharashtra, 61 from Andhra Pradesh, 41 from Tamil Nadu, 39 from Rajasthan, 38 from Punjab. 916 cases of deaths in judicial custody were registered in the Commission during the period 1999-2000 of which reports have been received in 396 cases and are awaited in 520.

The Commission has thus now instructed that all reports including post-mortem, videograph and magisterial inquiry report must be sent within two months of the incident. The postmortem reports have to be sent in a new proforma designed by the Commission which has already been circulated to all the concerned authorities. Further in every case of custodial death, Magisterial Inquiry has also to be done as directed by the Commission and it should be completed as soon as possible but in such a way that within the two months’ deadline this report is also made available.

In some cases of custodial death, after prost-mortem the viscera is sent for examination and viscera report is called for. However, the viscera report takes some time in coming and therefore the Commission has clarified that the post-mortem reports and other documents should be sent to the commission without waiting for the viscera report, which should be sent subsequently as soon as it was received.

These instructions were sent in a letter addressed to the Home Secretaries of all States/Union Territories, all Directors General of Prisons and all Directors General of Police by Shri N. Gopalaswami, Secretary General of the Commission, on 5 January 2001.