273rd report of the Law Commission of India

In news:

Law Commission of India has submitted its 273rd Report to the law ministry.

Highlights:

1. Ratification of Convention against Torture:

It has recommended the implementation of ‘United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment’ to tide over difficulties in extraditing criminals from foreign countries due to the absence of a law preventing harsh treatment by authorities.

The Commission also submitted a draft draft Prevention of Torture Bill for the consideration of the Government

2. Punishment for acts of torture

The Law Commission has recommended life in jail for public servants convicted of torture; and also the government should ratify a UN convention

The draft ‘Prevention of torture bill, 2017’ proposed “stringent punishment” to perpetrators to curb the menace of torture and to have a deterrent effect on acts of torture. The punishment could extend up to life imprisonment and include a fine.

3. Amendment to Existing Statutes

  • It said the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, require amendments to accommodate provisions regarding compensation and burden of proof.
  • It recommended an amendment to section 357B to incorporate payment of compensation, in addition to the payment of fine provided in the Indian Penal Code.
  • The report said the Indian Evidence Act required the insertion of a new section 114B. This will ensure that in case a person in police custody sustains injuries, it is presumed that those injuries have been inflicted by the police, and the burden of proof shall lie on the authority concerned to explain such injury.

Compensation to Victims

  • Referring to compensation to victims, it said the courts would decide upon a “justiciable compensation” after taking into account various facets of an individual case, such as nature, purpose, extent and manner of injury, including mental agony caused to the victim.
  • “The courts will bear in mind the socio-economic background of the victim” and ensure that the compensation will help the victim bear the expenses on medical treatment and rehabilitation, the panel recommended.

Protection of Victims, Complainants and Witnesses

The report also said an effective mechanism must be put in place to protect victims of torture, complainants and witnesses against possible threats, violence or ill-treatment.

Sovereign immunity

The Commission recommended the State own the responsibility for injuries caused by its agents on citizens, and the “principle of sovereign immunity cannot override the rights assured by the Constitution”. “While dealing with the plea of sovereign immunity, the Courts will have to bear in mind that it is the citizens who are entitled for fundamental rights, and not the agents of the State.”

Background:

In July this year, the Centre had asked the panel to examine the issue of ratifying the convention after a writ petition was filed in a court.

Law Commission of India:

Law Commission of India is an executive body established by an order of the Government of India. Its major function is to work for legal reform. Its membership primarily comprises legal experts, who are entrusted a made by the Government. The Commission is established for a fixed tenure and works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice

The first Law Commission was established during the British Raj era in 1834 by the Charter Act of 1833. After that, three more Commissions were established in pre-independent India. The first Law Commission of independent India was established in 1955 for a three-year term.

Chairman of the 21st Law Commission – Justice B. S. Chauhan

SOURCE: LiveLaw
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