November 1, 2017
The Law Commission of India on October 30th released its Report No. 273 on Implementation of ‘United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment’ through Legislation.
The Report was issued by the Commission in pursuance of Central Government’s direction to the Law Commission to examine the issue of ratification of United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly referred as UNCAT) .
In the aforesaid context, it would be relevant to trace the legislative backdrop in India surrounding the ratification of the UNCAT. The Convention was adopted by the United Nations in 1984 and till date 162 nations have ratified the Convention and India is listed among the few 8 countries which are yet to ratify the UNCAT.
The Supreme Court in May this year had made a scathing attack on the delay being caused by the Government in ratifying this crucial Convention. The Apex Court had remarked that why the Government was not making atleast a good faith commitment about its intention to legislate in the matter. The Court had further remarked that “We do understand that the legislative process can take time, but tell us why can’t you (the Centre) make a ‘good faith commitment’ on the law before us.”
In consequence of the Supreme Court’s aforesaid observation, the Central Government had directed the Law Commission to examine the issue of ratifying the UNCAT.
Recommendations by the Law Commission
The Law Commission has primarily recommended the Government to consider the possibility of ratifying the UNCAT. Other recommendation inter alia are:
- Widened definition of ‘torture’ to include physical, mental and psychological injury.
- Enactment of a standalone legislation and to make consequential amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- The Law Commission has also prepared a Draft Bill namely “The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2017”
The UNCAT is an international human rights Treaty and hence is a crucial Convention. The ratification of UNCAT by the Government has been a long pending issue which needs its immediate consideration.