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Bengal sees 300% jump in police custody deaths in one year

Top 5Bengal sees 300% jump in police custody deaths in one year

The number of deaths in police custody saw an alarming 300% spike in West Bengal between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023, shows data collected by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Human Rights Commission. In terms of actual figures, Maharashtra recorded the highest number of 23 police custody deaths during the period—a drop of around 20% from 30 such deaths in 2021-22.
At the overall national level, the data showed, there were a total of 164 deaths in police custody in the country in 2022-23, down 6% from 175 in 2021-22.
The rise in cases in West Bengal seems sharp, partially due to a low base effect as the number of police custody death cases in the state in 2021-22 stood at 5. The number has shot up to 15 in 2022-23. Due to a similar low base effect, in Andhra Pradesh the spike in the number of such deaths appears to be 400% as the cases rose from 1 in 2021-22 to 5 in 2022-23. Delhi also recorded a 400% rise in custody deaths—from 1 to 5—during this period. Uttarakhand’s figure of such deaths rose 200% from 2 in 2021-22 to 4 in 2022-23. In Tamil Nadu, there was a 75% jump in such deaths, up from 4 in 2021-22 to 7 in 2022-23.
The other big states that recorded a rise of about 25% in deaths in police custody include Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. In both states, the number of such deaths rose from 8 to 10 over one year. In Assam, the number of police custody deaths rose 22%, from 9 in 2021-22 to 11 in 2022-23.
In terms of the number of police custody deaths in 2022-23, Bihar recorded the second-highest figure of 16 cases. Gujarat recorded the third highest number of 15 such deaths, followed by Madhya Pradesh with 8 cases of such deaths. Interestingly, Madhya Pradesh recorded 8 such deaths each in the last two years as well.
The sharpest fall in cases of police custody death, among the larger states, was recorded in Rajasthan over the past one year. From 13 in 2021-22, the number of police custody deaths dropped to 4 in 2022-23—a fall of about 69%. In Karnataka, the cases of such deaths fell 37%—from 8 in 2021-22 to 5 in 2022-23. In Kerala, police custody deaths fell by 67%.
In Haryana, the number of police custody deaths dropped by 25%—from 4 in 2021-22 to 3 in 2022-23. Jharkhand, for the third year running, recorded 5 police custody deaths in 2022-23. Himachal Pradesh recorded one police custody death in 2023.
Earlier, a parliamentary panel took note of an NHRC report on police custody deaths and suggested the setting up of a National Commission for Police Custodial Deaths to monitor and investigate all cases of police custodial deaths. Its other suggestions under consideration of the home ministry include an amendment to the CrPC to make it mandatory for the police to video record the interrogation of all detainees; training of police personnel on the prevention of torture and other forms of ill-treatment of detainees.
The setting up of a compensation scheme for the families of the victims of police custodial deaths was also a key suggestion to the ministry. The report also called for the strengthening of the oversight mechanisms to ensure that the police are accountable for their actions.

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