Our work with death row prisoners has repeatedly forced us to confront the realities of torture within India’s criminal justice system and has given us an insight into ways in which in-built checks against custodial torture, such as medical examination by the doctors and the right of the accused to be presented before a Magistrate have routinely failed. Methods of torture have also evolved in very sophisticated and brutal ways across the globe and contemporary research on torture clearly demonstrates the migration of these methods across borders. As also evidenced by our recent publication, Matters of Judgement, torture is a widely accepted reality of the Indian criminal justice system and is an integral part of investigative techniques. While India has ratified the Convention against Torture, a comprehensive domestic legislation on torture hasn’t found the necessary political will in Parliament.
One important aspect that has not received sufficient attention in this context are ineffective and archaic medical procedures that are employed to detect torture. The rather obvious fact is that the evolution of methods of torture has far outpaced the methods to detect it. Collaboration with members of the medical community will be an integral part of our work on torture and will also involve working with accused persons, police personnel, judges, court observations and document reviews.