Custodial deaths and Technology

  • IASbaba
  • July 4, 2022
  • 0
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Context: India has a grim record in police brutality and custodial violence.

  • Between 2001 and 2018, 1,727 persons died in police custody, but only 26 policemen were convicted for such deaths.
  • The recent spate of custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu has yet again highlighted the methods used by the police during interrogation.
  • Custodial deaths are common despite enormous time and money being spent on training police personnel to embrace scientific methods of investigation.

Use of technology

  • Given the problem of custodial deaths, technology has been proposed as a silver bullet by many.
  • Several technological solutions are available to help prevent custodial deaths.

Technologies used

  • This includes body cameras and automated external defibrillators. These technologies help avert police custodial deaths.
  • For example, body cameras could hold officers liable.
  • Deception detection tests (DDTs), which deploy technologies such as polygraph, narco-analysis and brain mapping, are valuable in learning information that is known only to a criminal regarding a crime.
  • Among the DDTs, the Brain Fingerprinting System (BFS) has proved helpful for solving crimes, identifying perpetrators, and exonerating innocent suspects.
  • There is increasing use of robots for surveillance and bomb detection.
  • Many departments want robotic interrogators for interrogating suspects
  • Robots equipped with AI and sensor technology can build a rapport with the suspects, utilise persuasive techniques like flattery, shame and coercion, and strategically
  • ML can in real-time alert superiors when police are meting out inhumane treatment to suspects.


  • There is a lot of concern about AI or robot interrogations, both legally and ethically.
  • There exists the risk of bias, the peril of automated interrogation tactics, the threat of ML algorithms targeting individuals and communities, and the hazard of its misuse for surveillance.
  • Therefore, while the technology available to the police and law-enforcement agencies is constantly improving, it is a restricted tool that can’t eradicate custodial deaths.
  • While it might provide comfort and transparency, it can never address the underlying issues that lead to these situations.

Way forward

  • There is a need for multi-pronged strategy by the decision-makers encompassing legal enactments, technology, accountability, training and community relations.
  • The Law Commission of India’s proposition in 2003 to change the Evidence Act to place the onus of proof on the police for not having tortured suspects should be considered.
  • Stringent action must be taken against personnel who breach the commandments issued by the apex court in K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997) – a landmark judgment given by the apex court in the case of an increasing number of custodial deaths in India.
  • The draft bill on the Prevention of Torture, 2017 needs to be revived.

Technology may make policing more convenient, but it can never be an alternative for compassionate policing established on trust between the police and the citizens.

Source: The Hindu


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