Law Commission Current Affairs

Life term for government officials indulging in torture: Law Commission

The Law Commission in latest report has recommended government to ratify Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and also recommended life in jail for public servants convicted of torture.

In July 2017, Union Government had asked Law Commission of India to examine issue of ratifying the convention after a writ petition was filed in court.

Key Recommendations

UN convention: Government should ratify UN convention on torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment as it leading to difficulties in extraditing criminals from foreign countries due to the absence of a law preventing harsh treatment by authorities.

‘Prevention of torture bill, 2017: It has proposed legislation to amend various laws to prevent torture by government officials. The bill proposes “stringent punishment” to perpetrators to curb menace of torture and to have deterrent effect on acts of torture. It could extend up to life imprisonment and also fine.

Compensation: It suggested amendments to Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, and Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to accommodate provisions regarding compensation and burden of proof. It recommended an amendment to section 357B to incorporate payment of compensation in addition to payment of fine provided in Indian Penal Code.

For compensation to victims, courts should decide upon justiciable compensation after taking into account various facets of individual case, such as nature, purpose, extent and manner of injury, including mental agony caused to the victim. The courts should also bear in mind socio-economic background of the victim and ensure that compensation will help victim bear expenses on medical treatment and rehabilitation.

Burden of proof: It held that state own responsibility for injuries caused by its agents on citizens and held that principle of sovereign immunity cannot override rights assured by Constitution. It calls for effective mechanism must be put in place to protect victims of torture, complainants and witnesses against possible threats, violence or ill treatment.

New section 114B should be inserted in Indian Evidence Act to ensure that in case person in police custody sustains injuries, it is presumed that those injuries have been inflicted by police, and burden of proof shall lie on authority concerned to explain such injury.

UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

It is commonly known as United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT). It is an international human rights treaty, under review of UN that aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world. It requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.

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Recommendations of Law Commission against Hate Speech

The Law Commission of India (LCI) in its 267th Report has laid out that bare the danger of hate speech to the Union Government and called for action from the government and Parliament.

It held that hate speech has the potential to provoke individuals and society to commit acts of genocides, terrorism and ethnic cleansing.

The Supreme Court of India in 2014 had referred to the Law Commission for means to arm the Election Commission to crack down on hate speech.

Key Facts
  • In its report, the commission has cautioned the government that hate speech is considered outside the realm of protective discourse and has urged for the expansion of the penal law against hate crimes.
  • It held that indisputably, offensive hate speech has real and devastating effects on people’s lives and risks their health and safety.
  • It is also harmful and divisive for communities and hampers social progress. If left unchecked, it can severely affect right to life of every individual.
Law against Hate Speech
  • The commission also has drafted a new law The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017 by inserting new Sections to fortify democracy against hate speeches.
  • The law defined hate speech as any word written or spoken, signs, visible representations within the hearing or sight of a person with the intention to cause fear or alarm, or incitement to violence.
  • Its Section 153C penalises incitement to hatred and Section 505A for the first time makes ‘causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence in certain cases’ a specific criminal offence.
  • Section 153C calls for punishing guilty person with two years’ imprisonment or Rs. 5,000 in fine or both. Section 505A provides a punishment of one year imprisonment or Rs. 5,000 in fine or both.

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