“D. K. Basu vs State of West Bengal” is a landmark Indian Supreme Court case that focuses on custodial deaths and police brutality. The court’s verdict in 1997 established guidelines to prevent custodial torture and deaths, emphasizing the importance of protecting individuals’ fundamental rights during police custody. The guidelines include procedures for arrest , detention and interrogation, with the aim of preventing abuse of power and ensuring the safety of detainees. The case has had a significant impact on improving the human rights situation in police custody in India.
Who was D.K. Basu?
Mr. Dilip Kumar Basu was one of the Executive Chairman of Legal Aid Services, West Bengal which is a non-political organization.
Facts of the case:-
When D.K. Basu read about custodial case in newspaper he wrote a letter to Supreme Court of India requesting the court to consider his letter as a Writ Petition within the “Public Interest Litigation” category. In that letter he brought up that crimes of custodial violence were every time unpunishable. He asked the court to look into the matter and provide some form of compensation to the family of victims.
Later , on 29th July 1987, a letter was published by Mr. Ashok Kumar Johari addressing the death in Aligarh police custody of Mahesh Bihari.
On 14th August 1987, the court took the issues in the account and treated the letter as a written petition.
Issues involved in the letter of D.K. Basu was
i. Increase in the cases of custodial death and violence.
ii. Need for guidelines for arrest and custody of detenu.
iii. Violation of Article 21 “Right to Life”.
The Supreme Court gave the guidelines and said to follow these in order to arrest any person. Strict actions would be taken by the government against the person who violates these guidelines. The guidelines are as follows:
• Arrest Memo: The police officers making an arrest must prepare a memo that includes the date, time, place of arrest, and the identity of the arresting officers. This memo must be signed by at least one witness (either a family member or a reputed person from that locality). The arrestee has the right to have a copy of this memo.
• Right to Inform Someone: Upon arrest, the detainee has the right to inform a friend, relative, or well-wisher about their arrest and the place of detention. This information must be provided to the arrestee within a reasonable time after the arrest.
• Right to Legal Representation: The person arrested has the right to be represented by a lawyer of their choice during the interrogation and throughout the legal proceedings. The police must inform the arrestee of this right.
• Medical Examination: A person who has been arrested must be examined by a medical officer within 48 hours of arrest. The medical officer must prepare a "Inspection Memo" mentioning any injuries or marks found on the detainee's body. This memo must be submitted to the magistrate who will consider it during any subsequent proceedings.
• Police Control Room Record: The fact of arrest and the place of detention must be recorded in the police control room within 12 hours of the arrest, and this information should be communicated to the concerned police station and magistrate.
• Time Limit for Detention: The detention of a person in police custody without being produced before a magistrate should not exceed 24 hours, excluding the time required to take person from the place of arrest to the court.
• Custodial Interrogation: Interrogation in police custody should be conducted in the presence of a lawyer, and the detainee must be informed of their right to remain silent.
• No Handcuffing: Handcuffing is generally not allowed unless the police have a reasonable apprehension of the detainee escaping or committing violence.
• Women and Minors: Special care should be taken in the arrest and detention of women and minors. Women should only be arrested and questioned by female police officers, and minors should be dealt with in accordance with the Juvenile Justice Act.
• Right to Complaint: The arrestee has the right to make a complaint about their treatment or the conditions of detention to the magistrate or a higher police authority. The complaint should be promptly forwarded to the concerned magistrate for necessary action.
By Shristi Kumari