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This article is written by Priyanshi Purohit, 1st year Student of Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur


Custodial fatalities are a terrible and gravely worrying feature of justice and law enforcement around the world. This abstract offers a succinct overview of regulations relating to custodial deaths, emphasizing their ramifications and the steps taken to address this pressing issue.

When someone passes away while in the custody of the police or a correctional facility, this is referred to as a custodial death. Authorities on the international, national, and municipal levels have reacted in various ways to these killings because they pose serious questions about human rights and the law.

Case examples are offered to show how custodial fatalities and associated legal actions affect real-world situations. These instances highlight the complexity and difficulties victims, their families, and the legal system encounter.

Despite advancements in the fight against custodial deaths, many obstacles and gaps still exist. This presentation discusses legal and procedural flaws that obstruct justice and identifies widespread barriers to implementing custodial death laws.

This abstract emphasizes the importance of ongoing change, openness, and vigilance in order to successfully prevent and address custodial deaths.


Custodial laws, often known as laws controlling custody or detention, cover a wide range of rules and guidelines that apply to how people are handled by law enforcement, correctional, and immigration authorities when they are being held in custody, detained, or treated in any other way. The rights, dignity, and wellbeing of those under state control must be protected by these laws. They also act as a foundation for the rule of law and the defense of human rights in a society.

In the context of criminal justice systems, where people may be imprisoned during investigations, court procedures, or as part of a punitive sentence, custody rules are especially important. However, they also apply to institutions where people are kept under governmental control, such as mental health clinics and immigration detention camps.


Custodial deaths are incidents where people pass away while under the care, supervision, or custody of governmental entities, frequently law enforcement, correctional facilities, or immigration detention facilities. These fatalities happen when people are imprisoned, arrested, or held by state officials, and they can be caused by a number of different things, such as accidents, natural disasters, or official acts.


  • Natural Deaths: These happen when a person passes away while in custody from ailments, diseases, or age-related conditions. If the custodial authorities don’t provide the necessary medical care, it may be questioned whether they are acting responsibly.
  • Unexplained fatalities: Sometimes, fatalities that take place when a person is being held captive cannot be directly linked to a specific natural disaster, accident, or act of self-harm. Investigations to ascertain the circumstances and causation of these fatalities are usually sparked.
  • By use of force: Custodial deaths can occur as a result of the use of force by law enforcement or correctional personnel in more contentious circumstances. These fatalities may be the result of the use of excessive force, brutality, or other improper police acts.
  • Suicide and Self-Harm: Some people who are being held may commit suicide or engage in self-destructive behavior. The safety and mental health of detainees are typically the responsibility of the correctional authority.
  • Incidental deaths: Custodial deaths can also result from mishaps that happen inside of facilities for holding people, such as slip-and-fall incidents or collisions with police cars.

There are certain laws formed in connection with custodial deaths mainly to safeguard fundamental rights of individuals which is mentioned in article 21, Right to life and personal liberty.


Human rights movements, shifting societal values, and a rising understanding of the need to safeguard those in custody have all had an impact on the development of laws pertaining to custodial deaths. There have been significant turning points in the evolution of these laws, as well as changes in legal and ethical thinking.

Here is a timeline of the legislation governing fatalities while in custody:

  • Historical Absence of Regulation: Many early legal systems lacked clear rules covering deaths that occurred while someone was in custody. Detainees frequently received brutal treatment, and deaths while in custody weren’t unusual.
  • Human rights movement: it began to take off in the middle of the 20th century, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948. These changes made it more important than ever to uphold the rights and dignity of those who are in detention.
  • Domestic Law: To handle deaths in custody, nations began adopting domestic law. These legislation frequently contained clauses that guaranteed the detainees would be treated humanely, that torture and other cruel treatment would be prohibited, and that oversight procedures would be put in place.
  • Landmark Cases: Important legal precedents from both national and international contexts influenced the development of rules governing the death penalty in custody. These lawsuits frequently revealed instances of abuse, which prompted legal changes and raised awareness.
  • Independent Oversight agencies: To oversee detention institutions, look into grievances, and guarantee legal compliance, many nations established independent oversight agencies including ombudsmen, human rights commissions, and inspectorates.


  1. Protection of Human Rights: These laws are crucial for preserving peoples’ basic rights and sense of worth, even while they are detained by the state. They make certain that detainees get respect, are not subjected to torture or other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, and are given access to a fair trial.
  • Abuse of authority Prevention: Custodial rules are intended to stop abuse of authority by immigration, corrections, and law enforcement officials. They set forth precise rules and restrictions for how detainees must be treated, outlawing excessive force, violence, and other types of mistreatment.
  • Legal Framework for Detention: These laws give authorities the right to detain people when and how they see fit. They outline the circumstances in which detention is acceptable, required, and reasonable given the facts, preventing arbitrary custody of people.
  • Accountability and Transparency: Mechanisms for holding government officials responsible for any infractions are frequently included in custody death laws. Independent oversight organizations, reporting requirements, and required investigations all work to promote accountability and transparency for decisions made in remand facilities.
  • Legal Recourse: These rules ensure that those who are detained have access to legal recourse. Detainees have the right to legal counsel, the opportunity to dispute their arrest or treatment in court, and the chance to report rights violations.
  • International human rights principles and treaties: such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture, have an impact on a number of custodial death statutes. The prestige of a country on the international arena depends heavily on compliance with these norms.
  • Effective custodial death laws: It is to contribute to preserving public faith in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. People are more willing to cooperate with authorities and have trust in the justice system when they feel that prisoners’ rights are upheld.
  • Assistance to government: Laws pertaining to fatalities in custody assist governments and law enforcement organizations reduce their legal liability. These processes and criteria are made apparent by creating help to prevent custodial deaths.


Joginder Kumar v. State of U.P and others, 1994

The petitioner, Joginder Kumar, was taken into custody by the Uttar Pradesh Police. His arrest was undertaken without a warrant and was based more on rumors and suspicion than any proof of his involvement in a crime.

The arrest of Joginder Kumar was made without following the correct procedures. He wasn’t told why he was being detained by the police, and they didn’t provide him a good cause for the arrest either.

Before being brought before a magistrate, Joginder Kumar was detained in police custody for a considerable amount of time. His appearance before a magistrate took longer than the 24-hour window allowed by law, not including travel time.

The petitioner claimed that his detention and subsequent arrest infringed several of his fundamental rights, including the right to liberty, the right to know the reasons for his arrest, and the access to legal counsel.

Joginder Kumar filed a writ suit under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution with the Supreme Court of India in reaction to the claimed infringement of his rights.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court of India stressed the need of preserving people’s rights and dignity while they are being detained. The Court ruled that the right to make an arrest must be used sensibly and in accordance with accepted legal norms.

The Court established a number of rules and procedural protections involving arrests, which have grown in importance in Indian criminal law.

The Supreme Court mandated Joginder Kumar’s immediate release from detention due to the infringement of his rights and the improper arrest processes.

Yashwant and others v. the State of Maharashtra, 2018

Nine police officials from Maharashtra were convicted of causing a death in detention in 1993, and the High Court of Bombay sentenced them to three years in prison. The Supreme Court backed the ruling of the high court and enhanced the sentence from three years to seven years for each offense.

According to Justice N.V. Ramana and MM Shantanagoudar, the unfortunate incident involving the police erodes public confidence in the criminal justice system. The police officers involved in the incident were found guilty of breaking Section 330 of the Indian Penal Code by intentionally harming the victim in order to extract a confession, according to the court’s ruling.

The lengthening of the sentence in the current case is completely justified given the nature of the offense committed. It is essential that the law enforcement agencies adhere to the legal processes specified by the Constitution. The Apex Court extended the sentence rather than delaying it, creating a precedent that the judiciary would not hear any allegations alleging human rights breaches. This is why the case is noteworthy.


To protect justice, human rights, and the rule of law in any community, custodial deaths and associated legislation are of utmost importance. These rules are an essential protection for defending the rights and dignity of those who are in the custody, care, or control of the government, whether it be through law enforcement, prisons, or immigration detention facilities.

Custodial death rules are not only a legal formality; they also show how committed a community is to ensuring that everyone who is robbed of their freedom is handled with dignity, justice, and compassion. They are essential in striking a balance between the demand for security and the need to uphold individual rights. They do a number of crucial tasks as a result, including.

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