The right to life is the most basic fundamental right of an individual. Interestingly, this right has existed even before the Indian Constitution was framed. Thus, the right to life is not only provided by article 21 but also through natural justice and common law.
Power is something that can either lead to a fruitful result or even destruction. The cases of taking away life by using political power for the sake of satisfying personal agendas are increasing. All these incidents are not only against the constitution but also give birth to a sense of insecurity and faith issues in the mind of common people regarding the credibility of the institution. These incidents are not something which we can consider as rare rather they happen almost every other day and that too through different means, some of which have been discussed over here.
When a person is killed by the police or any other armed forces for the sake of self-defence, it is termed as an encounter. It is an extrajudicial death in nature that is justified by some of the provisions of the constitution but only in cases of self-defense and should not have any sort of connection with personal revenge.
The cases of police encounters are increasing daily, but interestingly, only a few of them are actual encounters and the rest are politically motivated killings.
Let us talk about a recent incident when police encounter all four accused in the Hyderabad rape-murder case. Surprisingly, the majority of the public celebrated it but it somehow indicated the death of fundamental rights.
One should not forget that until or unless a crime is proven, the person remains accused which in no sense should be misunderstood as a criminal.
Police torture and custodial death aren’t anything new; these practices have existed since time immemorial in one or the other way. It is the most common way to extract information from the accused, make him confess a crime even if it was never committed by him and many times to satisfy political thrust or personal grudges. According to a report of the National Human Rights Commission, at least 17146 People died in police custody between the year 2000 and March 2020. the main factor in this whole practice for low-income people, people from lower caste and minorities.
Let us take a recent example where a father-son duo died in police custody due to gruesome torture and that too because of a small altercation that happened when the police asked them to close the shock during a lockdown curfew.
Police brutality has become a common practice and all the credit goes to lack of proper laws against police torture during custody, lack of accountability, no strict penalty for the wrongdoers. Even though certain guidelines have been introduced but compliance is rare.
Misuse of Public safety act-The law allows preventive detention for up to two years if the act is in the manner which is “prejudicial to the security of the state” and detention for up to one year if it is “prejudicial to the maintenance of public order.” The misuse of PSA has been since its inception, the Human Rights body has even called for ‘repeal’. According to the government data, between 2007 and 2016 there has been 2,400 detentions out of which 58% were quashed by the courts. Several children, women have been detained, no bail has been granted and they are denied their legal rights, not being able to be in touch with any lawyer or family members. Recently, PSA was invoked against three former chief ministers and other main leaders of Jammu and Kashmir too due to political motive which was absurd and bizarre. It will be better if the state will repeal this Act as it is contentious, hazardous, has draconian provisions, and violates human rights.
Currently, UAPA is one of the main Anti-Terror laws in India. It has made headlines a number of times but none for a good cause. It is well said that the process of extracting truth cannot be punishment. Alas! Words hardly come into action. the most controversial aspect of UAPA is its clause that restricts the right to bail and leaves the matter of pre-trial Jail time in the hands of the state officials. This can lead to numerous politically motivated malpractices.
Let us take a recent example of the Stan Swami case. He was accused of conducting anti-India activities. His bail was denied a number of times which delayed his trial process and unfortunately, he died during the custody recently. It is not one such case rather a number of people have to go through this. Some manage to get justice while some succumb to the political machinery.
In no sense, it means that that terror laws should be made liberal. All it requires is certain reforms like speedy trials which will solve the problem of delay in justice because it is well known that justice delayed s justice denied. Unfortunately, no one will come to know whether Stan Swamy was a threat to the sovereignty of India or to the government.
It won’t be wrong to say that it is hard for a poor, backward class person to get justice, and even if he manages to get one, it always comes with a price, especially if the fight is against a rich and powerful person.
As per various reports, a poor accused is more likely to get a death sentence as compared to a rich accused. Even though it is said that law is equal for all but in actual it depends upon various factors and socio-economic is one such factor.
Unfortunately, even in 21st century see racial discrimination. As per the United Nations report, a black is more likely to get a death sentence as compared to a white accused. It's a high time we realize that life matters, be it black, white, or brown.
Communal violence- There is an increase in communal violence and most of the violence is incited by the politicians and leaders whose main motive is to divide people and increase their vote bank. People get influenced by the leaders and violence, looting, vandalizing starts and the common people suffer. In the recent North-east Delhi Violence, it was visible that police ignorance was there, many activists and protestors were charged under terrorism laws, few of them are still under police custody. There was a gross violation of Article 21. People should understand that communal peace is of utmost importance when you are in a secular country. Differences can be there, but violence is not a solution because, in the end, it harms people’s liberty and the politicians succeed.
Covid-19 and the lockdown- When the lockdown started, it was uncommon for each one of us to stay in houses for such a long period. Police getting strict is a good step as it was necessary but brutality to such an extent that it could lead to the death of any person is a violation of fundamental rights. There was a father-son duo that was tortured and beaten to death for flouting lockdown rules. The police’s duty is to maintain law and order and not to take the law into their hands. The Ministry of home affairs was silent in this matter which was a great shock. According to the New Delhi-based National Campaign Against Torture, 125 people died in police custody due to torture or other abuses in 2019. Police reforms are necessary and reforms must include understanding of human rights and maintaining law and order, doing proper investigations, and not be biased towards any gender, religion, caste, or political party.
Article 21- Right to life is one of the most basic fundamental rights, if there is no Right to life then there won’t be any use of other fundamental rights. Article 2 of the Human Rights Act protects your life. It states that government, public authority, or administration shouldn’t put you in such a situation where your life is at risk. The state has a responsibility towards the public to safeguard their life and liberty.
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution protects your life and liberty by providing several rights-
Right against illegal detention
Right to speed, fair and open trail
Right to legal aid
Right against custodial death
Right to prisoners
Article 32 states the Right to constitutional remedies which means if any of your fundamental rights has been violated by the state, you can move to the Supreme Court. Also, Articles 14, 19, and 21 mutually exist and support each other. So, violation of one violates others too. Arbitrary deprivation of life can be protected under Article 21 which has a very wide ambit and which focuses on “procedure established by law” and “principles of natural justice”.
Legal schemes for the proper trial - In politically motivated cases, the police become biased and don’t investigate properly. In this case, the people must be aware of how to approach proper investigation chronologically. Firstly, the complainant must try to file an FIR under sec 154 C.r. P.C. If the police refuse to file an FIR under sec 154, then the complainant should move under Sec 154(3) of C.r. P.C by filing a written complaint. If still there is non-registration of FIR, then the complainant can move under Sec 156(3) and can approach a magistrate. This chronology must be followed cautiously. There are several cases where police refuse to file FIRs, ignore the complaints, hide the material facts, don’t investigate properly, and are under the influence of the state. In such matters, the judiciary must play a major role and even the citizens’ should be well aware of their rights.
Politically motivated killings, negligence of the police, use of draconian laws are so common that we tend to ignore this issue, but we have to be responsible. We should know our rights and duties. Legislature and executive must repeal laws that violate human rights and the judiciary should always step up in protecting our rights because it is our “last resort”. Liberty is our fundamental right and we can’t ignore it.
IAS, https://www.drishtiias.com/loksabha-rajyasabha-discussions/in-depth-encounter-supreme-court-guidelines (last visited Jul 22, 2021).
Shreehari Paliath, 5 Deaths In Police/Judicial Custody Every Day Over 10 Years, But Few Convictions, INDIA SPEND (Jul 23, 2021, 7:23PM), https://www.indiaspend.com/5-deaths-in-police-judicial-custody-every-day-over-10-years-but-few-convictions/ .
THE ECONOMIC TIMES, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/et-editorial/the-process-cannot-be-the-punishment/articleshow/84181363.cms (last visited Jul. 23, 2021).
OHCHR, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22208&LangID=E (last visited Jul. 24, 2021).
The Hindu, Latest Delhi violence 2020 News, Photos, Latest News Headlines about Delhi violence 2020 The Hindu (2021), https://www.thehindu.com/topic/delhi-violence-2020/(last visited Jul 25, 2021).
Prachi Darji, Article 21-Right to life,(Aug. 2019), https://www.myadvo.in/blog/article-21-right-to-life-all-you-need-to-know/ (last visited Jul 25,2021).
University of Lucknow