The recent spate of custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu has yet again highlighted the methods used by the police during interrogation.
- India has a grim record in police brutality and custodial violence. Between 2001 and 2018, 1,727 persons died in police custody, but only 26 policemen were convicted for such deaths.
Custodial Death: It is widely referred to as death that happens to a person who is under trial or has already been convicted of a crime.
It can be due to natural causes like illness or may also happen due to suicide, infighting among prisoners but in many instances, it is police brutality and torture that is the reason behind the death.
Technological Solutions to handle them:
- Several technological solutions are available to help prevent custodial deaths.These include body cameras and automated external defibrillators.
- Deception detection tests (DDTs), which deploy technologies such as polygraph, narco-analysis and brain mapping, could be valuable in learning information that is known only to a criminal regarding a crime.
- Among the DDTs, the Brain Fingerprinting System (BFS) is an innovative technology that several police forces contemplate adding to their investigative tools.
- BFS has proved helpful for solving crimes, identifying perpetrators, and exonerating innocent suspects.
- However, the Supreme court observed that the state could not perform narco analysis, polygraph, and brain-mapping tests on any individual without their consent.
- With informed consent, however, any information or material discovered during the BFS tests can be part of the evidence.
- Police departments are increasingly using robots for surveillance and bomb detection. Robots equipped with AI and sensor technology can build a rapport with the suspects, utilise persuasive techniques like flattery, shame and coercion, and strategically use body language.
- AI can detect human emotions and predict behaviour.
- Machine Learning (ML) can in real-time alert superiors when police are meting out inhumane treatment to suspects.
- AI or robot interrogations can be subject to the risk of bias, misuse for surveillance, and targeting of individuals and communities.
- Although technological solutions might provide comfort and transparency, they can never address the underlying issues that lead to custodial deaths.
- There is a need for the formulation of a multi-pronged strategy by the decision-makers encompassing legal enactments, technology, accountability, training and community relations.
- The Law Commission of India’s proposition in 2003 to change the Evidence Act to place the onus of proof on the police for not having tortured suspects is important in this regard.
- Besides, stringent action must be taken against personnel who breach the commandments issued by the apex court in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997).
- The draft bill on the Prevention of Torture, 2017, which has not seen the day, needs to be revived.
- Technology may make policing more convenient, but it can never be an alternative for compassionate policing established on trust between the police and the citizens.
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