Thursday, December 18, 2008

Custodial interrogation: The new law and the reality

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2008 seeks to extend the maximum number of days a suspect can be detained for interrogation to 180 days, if it is not possible to complete the investigation within 90 days. First, it is not clear why India needs such lengthy period for interrogation, when other countries in their anti-terror laws provided for a far less period ( According to Kapil Sibal, who took part in the debate in Parliament, under the Patriot Act in the U.S., an accused non-citizen is presented before the magistrate within 7 days. In U.K., under the Terrorism Act, 2006, an accused could be detained for 28 days. Sibal cited this to suggest that our laws are more stringent than those in these countries. Agreed. He could have as well explained why we require such lengthy period, and whether we have any inherent defects/insufficiencies in investigation. Second, I'm surprised that this factor is cited as a justification for the new law, when under S.167 of Cr.P.C., the maximum permissible period for custodial interrogation is already 90 days for offences punishable with death, life imprisonment or imprisonment for 10 years. Third, as this news report shows, the Courts do have discretion to extend the period of detention for custodial interrogation. The Delhi High Court's judgment in this case, which may be uploaded in a few days, may throw further light on this.
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