New Delhi, Apr 24 (PTI) Pointing out that there was no law on torture, the Supreme Court today said there was “extreme urgency” in national interest to frame of an effective law to prevent torture and inhuman treatment of individuals in custody.
“We do not have a law on torture. This is a matter of national interest,” a bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said.
“Several issues are pending with the Law Commission. This is a matter which is required to be dealt with in extreme urgency. This is a matter of human rights,” the bench further said.
The remarks were made after Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the court that Law Commission was examining the issue.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by senior advocate and former law minister Ashwani Kumar, who has sought directions to frame an effective law on the issue and empower agencies like NHRC with necessary enforcement capabilities and mechanisms to implement its orders and directions.
During the hearing, the solicitor general said that the government has referred the matter to the Law Commission which would come out with recommendations on the issue.
“We have said it categorically that we have sent it (the matter) to the Law Commission and they are considering it,” he said.
The SG also said that a Bill on the issue was in the Lok Sabha in 2010 and the erstwhile UPA-II government, in which Ashwini Kumar was himself a minister, could not get it passed.
To this, the bench said, “but it has to be non-partisan. This is an important issue.”
Ashwani Kumar, a senior Congress leader, contended that the Centre should have a comprehensive and stand-alone legislation against torture.
The solicitor general said, “we are not shying away. We are not saying that we will not do it”.
The Congress leader also said the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has said that they were in support of framing of such a law.
When the Centre said they were committed for framing of law on the issue, Ashwani Kumar said, “mere commitment is not enough. There has to be concrete steps”.
The bench fixed the matter for further hearing on May 5 after the solicitor general sought time to take instructions in the matter.
The government had earlier told the bench that a writ petitioner cannot seek a legislation through the court as the issue fell under the domain of the Executive and the Legislature.
The petitioner had told the apex court that despite being a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, 1997, India has not ratified the convention so far since ratification requires an enabling legislation to reflect the definition and punishment for torture, Kumar said.
The “absence of a standalone, comprehensive, and purposeful municipal legislation in India for prevention of custodial violence, and disinclination of the Executive and Legislature to enact a law in this regard has resulted in a disturbing void in law endangering the constitutional right of persons affected by custodial violence and torture,” the plea has said.
It sought a direction to the Centre to ensure an effective law and its enforcement to fulfil the constitutional promise of human dignity and prevention of custodial torture.
The petition has sought issuance of guidelines for timely and effective investigation of complaints of torture and custodial violence and directions be given to the government for rehabilitation and compensation for the victims.
It has further sought direction to the states and union territories to establish and ensure an independent mechanism for investigation into complaints of custodial torture and to take necessary steps