NCRB Reports Show Statistics on How Many Breathe Their Last in Custody A deep dive into the Board’s 2017 reports on crimes in India and prison statistics.

04, Nov 2019 | Gayatri Korgaonkar

On October 20, the NCRB simultaneously released two of its annual reports—“Prison Statistics India 2017” and “Crime in India 2017”. The reports contain statistics collated by the Board as to the number and types of deaths occurring in judicial and police custody respectively. Here, we look into the findings from these documents.

Deaths in judicial custody

The report notes that 1,671 prisoners have died in 2017 while they were in judicial custody. These deaths in jails have been broadly classified into natural deaths (1,494) and unnatural deaths (133). The natural deaths category includes those by illness (1,373) or ageing (121). 348 of these deaths were from heart disease, while 164 were from some type of lung ailment. At least 85 of the natural deaths were caused by the prisoner catching tuberculosis.

The unnatural deaths have been sub-categorised into such as suicide (109), accidental deaths (9), murder by fellow inmates (5), deaths due to assault by outside elements (5) and a catch-all “others” (3). The number of unnatural deaths in prisons has increased by 15.7 per cent from 115 in 2015.

During 2017, Uttar Pradesh has reported the highest number of deaths by natural causes at 386. The state is followed by Punjab (131) and Maharashtra (111).

Deaths in police custody

The “Crime in India” comprises a special chapter that enumerates custodial crimes reported in the country in 2017.

A total of 100 persons died in police custody that year, with Andhra Pradesh having the highest number at 27. The most common reason reported for custodial death in 2017 was suicide (37) followed by death in illness/hospital during treatment (28).

The Times of India noted that 106 people have lost their lives in Maharashtra in police custody within the four-year period between 2013 and 2017. It was followed by Andhra Pradesh (65), Gujarat (51), Tamil Nadu (38) and Telangana (12). In 47 of the 106 incidents from Maharashtra, a magisterial or judicial inquiry had been initiated. In 14 of the 106, cases had been registered, and in 19 of them, chargesheets had been filed. None of the seven union territories reported any deaths in police custody in 2017.

The report further classified certain incidences as human rights violation while showing statistics as to those cases registered against police officers. These include: encounter killing, deaths in custody, illegal detention, torture/causing hurt/injury, extortion, and “other”.

No state police personnel has been convicted for any reported deaths in custody in 2017.

Out of the 56 registered cases of human rights violations by the police in 2017, only half of the cases (29) get chargesheeted, only half of those get investigated to completion (14), and only a fifth of those have gotten convictions (3). The probability of a registered case amounting to a conviction was, thus, 1 in 18.


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