The dictionary meaning of torture states that it is an act done by one person to another which causes a lot of physical or mental agony or any sort of suffering for a specific purpose. The main purpose of using torture techniques is to extract any sort of vital information, get forced confession, or even inflict punishment by causing severe pain to another. Torture as a means to an end is usually committed by either a public official or another person who exercises equivalent power and authority and has the right to use such techniques.

The technique of using torture to showcase power and authority has been in the pages of history since ancient Greece and Rome where the practice of physical torture was not only legalized but even often brought into use against people who had committed a wrong or a sin, non-citizens who were deemed to be a threat to the society or slaves. It was all just a means of getting the requisite information or confession and further in early medieval Europe it came to be used as a form of practice in trials. However, the late Middle Ages saw a change as now torture was once again used to confess guilt in cases of heinous crimes.


In a democratic country like India where the theory of Blackstone of sparing 10 innocent lives but not killing one innocent is practiced, torture is not legalized by law. It is not legalized or criminalized as a separate or even as a special offense. However, the provisions of the Indian Penal Code of 1860 Section 330 which deal with voluntarily causing hurt to get a confession or property restoration, and Section 348 of IPC that states wrongful confinement of any sort to get a confession, information, or property restoration are not legit and will be deemed as offenses. The punishment for such acts which are considered to be torture is imprisonment of seven years and three years respectively if and when the guilt is proven.

For a layman, torture is deemed to be accepted as a means of investigation in order to deliver justice. Even today, a lot of learned individuals like police officers and law enforcement officers do consider torture to be a very important tool in the investigation process. However, it is to be noted that torture is rather an unscientific and crude method of investigation that harms individuals. Policymakers and bureaucrats believe that there is nothing wrong with punishing a criminal in custody in order to get the desired answers. However, while dishing out arguments in favor of torture, they do not realize the fact that a person under investigation is only not a convict rather that individual is just an accused whose case is still pending in the court of law. It is to be noticed here that even if it was a convict the officials do not have the authority and they cannot torture because the guilty is liable only to perform their punishment which the Honourable Court has given and torture is never the solution to such issues. The basic norm of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is disregarded and lost but most in this race.

 Torture as a practice dangerously affects an individual’s ability to act prudently and many times forces them to take the blame for the acts they never committed because the pressure is such. Torture whether it be mental or physical or a combination of both is practiced in all police stations is a preconceived notion among many but in the case of Sunil Batra V. Delhi Administration and Nandini Satpati v. P.L. Dani the court has delivered a clear stand on the prohibition of torture as a means of interrogation by the police. This not only gives mental and physical trauma to the accused but also the sole purpose of having a law in the first place gets hindered.


The 1984 Treaty of Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Bill is one of the most important international human rights treaties that deal with torture alone. India has not ratified this bill for the fight against torture but it has signed the Convention on the 14th of October, 1997. The Convention obliges signatory states to prohibit and prevent any form of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment where the agony of any sort is caused under all circumstances.


Right against torture is not yet a fundamental right in India therefore there is no source of reimbursement available for the same to the person who suffered such mental or physical pain. However, the Government did take steps to prepare a report in order to re-read and understand the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958  which came to be known as Justice Jeevan Reddy Report 2005 and deals with the aspect of torture during the investigation process.

In the 1997’s even the United Nations Human Rights Commission had expressed its major concerns and threw light on the ongoing extensive use of torture techniques by law enforcers to procure information in India. In the light of all this in 2007 the racism abolition committee and even the Commission on the Social Cultural Rights Economy in 2008 pointed out the matter of concern. 


In the year 2010, the Torture Prevention Bill 2010 was passed by the Lok Sabha but it was passed as a hesitant step toward UNCAT ratification. Thereafter, a multi-party Rajya Sabha selection committee was formed to improve the bill under the chairmanship of attorney Ashwini Kumar. However, the invoice has been invalidated and the bill was not able to draw major force toward it.

According to the National Campaign Against Torture report, about 2000 people died in police custody in India in 2019 due to the torture and agony inflicted on them. This equates to about five deaths a day, which is a horrifying number and the authorities must safeguard the people’s lives. But the custodial deaths which are a result of torture show the dark side of democracy and it is time to clean this slate.


It is the need of the hour to stop indulging in the inhumane practice of torture and consider it a just practice. India as a democratic nation must protect the well-being of its citizens, therefore, it needs to ratify the convention and bring about laws and bills against torture.

Torture is not the means nor the means to end rather it is just a way of imposing one’s own will illegally. The legislature should therefore go forth and make sturdy laws to do away with torture and harsh punishment and the role of the executive should look that such laws are not being misused by any member either individual private players or the authority itself.

Author’s Name: Charu Kohli (Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, Delhi)

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