AHMEDABAD: Gujarat has, one again, the dubious distinction of topping the list of states in the country where the highest number of custodial deaths took place over the last five years, with 80 such cases being reported.
This is official data provided by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and tabled in Parliament by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA): Gujarat recorded 14 custodial deaths in 2017–18, 13 in 2018–19, 12 in 2019–20 and 24 in 2021–22!
Besides, the statistics provided by the ministry regarding the condition of inmates in Gujarat’s jails also paint a sorry picture, despite all the talk of development and progress. “Gujarat state has a prison capacity of 13,999 prisoners, 16,597 prisoners are currently housed in its jails. Importantly, the numbers unequivocally show that Gujarat’s jails are overflowing with 2,598 inmates,” states the data tabled by Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra in Parliament. He was responding to a question posed by Congress MP Abdul Khaleque in the Lok Sabha recently.
In February 2023, Sabrangindia had also reported on data of deaths in police custody. Then, according to data provided by the Union government in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, February 8, there has been a steady rise in deaths of persons in police custody in the past three years.
In March 2021, Sabrangindia had reported this phenomenon in Gujarat (custodial deaths) when figures and the statistics had shows that disciplinary action was taken in only 15 cases of custodial deaths, with no prosecution between 2017 and 2021.
In terms of deaths in police custody, Gujarat reported the highest number of cases at 15 between the year 2020 up to February 28, 2021. Uttar Pradesh, on the other hand, reported 395 cases of death in judicial custody. Across all States and Union Territories, a total of 86 deaths in police custody was reported by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), where the state of Gujarat had then accounted for 6% of deaths in police lockups. The year from 2020 to 2021, also reported a whopping 1,645 cases of judicial custodial deaths. Following Gujarat, Maharashtra recorded 11 deaths in police custody and West Bengal reported 158 deaths in judicial custody.
Sabrangindia has analysed all the data provided by the NHRC and tabled in Parliament yesterday, March 15.
In response to another question posed in the Lok Sabha, the Ministry of Home Affairs, said that there are a total of 745 police stations in Gujarat, out of which 622 have CCTVs and 123 do not. According to data submitted in the Lok Sabha, the union government has not released the Rs 25.58 crores it set aside for the upgrading of the Gujarat Police for the past two years (2020-2021 and 2021-2022).
Gujarat Congress spokesperson Hiren Banker told the media recently, “The growing number of custodial deaths in Gandhi-Sardar’s Gujarat is a source of shame for the state. The rule of law governs a civil society. However, the BJP government’s use of incarceration amounts to abuse of power.”
Congress leader Parthivaraj Singh also took on the Gujarat government. “Gujarat’s jails are already overflowing. According to a government report, 22,696 accused are still at large in Gujarat. When all of these people are apprehended, where will they be kept? Will new jails be constructed? When will they be completed?” he said.