TORTURE1Iftikhar Gilani [email protected]

New Delhi: Blame it on a tiff or lack of seriousness and coordination among central ministries. Nineteen years after putting its signature on the UN Convention against Torture, India is yet to ratify it.

In a scathing comment, the Lok Sabha Committee on Assurances has concluded that 19 years were a long period to be wasted, when the country earnestly needed to enhance its prestige, image and status abroad as an emerging world power.

Even after signing the Convention on October 14, 1997, the ministries of external affairs (MEA) and home affairs, and the legislative department under the ministry of law are still to come to terms on whether to bring a comprehensive stand-alone legislation to bring domestic laws in conformity with the Convention or to just amend the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc) or the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or leave it to the state governments.

Making a presentation before the parliamentary panel, an MEA representative said that after a lot of deliberations in 2008, it was decided to have a stand-alone legislation to give efforts to the provisions of the Convention.

Two years later, the Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha and also passed by the House on May 6, 2010. However, it remained pending in Rajya Sabha and lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.

But since then, the home ministry changed its mind, informing that instead of bringing in legislation, it was prudent to bring suitable amendments in the CrPc and IPC. In a communication, it stated that most states were of the opinion that adequate provisions already exist in the statute book to deal with issues of torture and there is no need for a separate enactment.

A trail of e-mails between the two ministries suggests that the MEA believed that ratification of the UN convention was not possible till the completion of action involving national legislation. The home ministry, in a draft cabinet note, addressed to the legislative department, has suggested changes in Section 330 and 331 of IPC, pertaining to torture.

But the MHA representative, who was called by the parliamentary panel to depose expressed ignorance about the matter. The legislative department confirmed that they were in the process of drafting amendments in the code, but want some clarifications from MHA. “The entire sequence of events clearly indicates glaring lack of seriousness and coordination among ministries of external affairs, home affairs and the legislative department,” the panel stated.

Published Date:  Mar 21, 2016