10 Prison Ministry - Custodial torture and death - Maritta Pereira

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:32 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 9:32 AM ]
The horror stories coming out of Mumbai's Byculla Jail of the alleged murder of a woman prisoner and subsequent rioting by enraged female inmates, brings the focus back to the gory truth of custodial torture and death. It is a wake-up call on the state of affairs inside our prisons, and highlights the need for prison reforms and review of the existing safeguards to prevent prisoner abuse. The reports told of how a convicted prisoner was allegedly stripped and brutally assaulted by six prison officials in the prison on June 23, 2017, because the woman complained that prisoners were not receiving sufficient food. Witnesses described hearing the woman's screams, as she was brutalised in the jailor's office, and again in the barracks. Initial police reports alleged that female guards forcefully opened her legs, and inserted a police lathi into her private parts. She was then left bleeding in the barracks. By evening, Shetye lost consciousness and was taken to JJ Hospital, where she was declared dead before admission.

It brought back memories of the shocking 'Nirbhaya' case where a medical student was brutally assaulted with similar acts on a bus, and died in Delhi in December 2012, which shook the nation and triggered massive protests all over the country. However, this is worse, because here, law enforcement officers were doing it within the walls of the prison, where the victim was completely helpless. Torture in custody at the hands of the protectors of the law is considered to be the cruelest form of human rights violation, and an affront to human dignity. It is one of the worst crimes in a civilised society. A former Supreme Court Judge, V. R. Iyer, has said that, "Custodial torture is worse than terrorism, because the authority of the State is behind it."

Custody means guardianship or protective care. When the state takes away a person's liberty by way of police detention/imprisonment, it assumes full responsibility for protecting their human rights. The most fundamental of these is the right to life.