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Handcuffing, roping detainees in West Bengal inhuman, illegal: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk 

Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), Hooghly, has taken strong exception to the continuing practice of handcuffing and roping is still court premises. Giving a specific example, he says, "It is a pitiful sight to witness the process of dragging the under-trial prisoner in open daylight in the presence of many."
In a letter to chairman, National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi, Roy says, the practice is "unconstitutional", stating, the Supreme Court of India has held that handcuffing is prima facie inhuman, and therefore unreasonable", adding, it also issued "specific guidelines for putting handcuffs."

Text:

This is to inform you that even though it is unconstitutional, the practice of handcuffing and roping is still practiced inside the Mekhliganj court premises. In a recent case on April 13, 2022, it was noticed that a prisoner who was coming out of the ACJM court at Mekhliganj had been handcuffed. The name of the prisoner is Hitesh Barman and he is a resident of Dangapara village, Mekhliganj. It is a pitiful sight to witness the process of dragging the under-trial prisoner in open daylight in presence of many.
The situation establishes that still fetters either handcuffs or rope are used to hold on to the prisoners. No doubt that the use of handcuffs and ropes in securing the prisoners is a use of force and therefore it must stand the test of rationality where decades back the following court verdicts held that no handcuff is the rule and issued guidelines for police and jail authorities to pass the test of reasonableness before putting handcuffs or other fetters on prisoners during transit from jail to court and back.
  • Prem Shankar Shukla vs. Delhi Administration 1980 SCC 526: The Supreme Court of India held that handcuffing is prima facie inhuman, and therefore unreasonable, is over-harsh, and at first flush arbitrary.
  • Citizens for Democracy vs State of Assam and others-(1995)3SCC743: In this judgment the Supreme Court of India issued specific guidelines for putting handcuffs.
Despite the Supreme Court of India’s order to prohibit using handcuffing and other fetters, flagrant violations continue in West Bengal. Handcuffing and roping of detainees and prisoners remain widely prevalent despite judicial interpretation clearly establishing that it is against the protection of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It may also be noted that MASUM is continuously fighting to stop such ill practices.
Under the circumstances, I request you to look into the matter so that handcuffing and roping of the detainees in West Bengal in arbitrary way can be stopped immediately in compliance of the directives issued by the Supreme Court of India.
I again request your good office to hold one sensitizing programme with the administrators of the criminal justice system in West Bengal to stop systematic illegal practices.
I also demand that the whole matter must be enquired into by one neutral enquiring agency preferably by the Commission’s own investigating wing and the perpetrators involved in this case must be punished accordingly.

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