India evasive on ratifying treaty against torture

Behind 161 nations to make the global human rights treaty into a law

Society

May 10, 2017

/ By / New Delhi

 

Even after 30 years of signing the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture, India is yet to turn it into a law and prevent possible torture on its citizens.

On October 14, 1997, India participated in the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture and became a signatory to this global human rights treaty; but 30 years later and the country is yet to ratify it, keeping itself behind 161 nations. The fact that the country is among the only nine nations, which are yet to proceed with the treaty and make it a law has hit the apex court of India, the Supreme Court, which has questioned the government why it has not made at least a “good faith commitment” about its intention to legislate in the matter.

“We do understand that the legislative process can take time, but tell us why can’t you (Centre) make a ‘good faith commitment’ on the law before us,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar.

The bench that also comprises of Justices DY Chandrachud and SK Kaul, remarked, “this is an extremely important issue in the national interest and moreover, there is no conflict.” The remarks were made after Congress leader and former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar pointed out that India was among the only nine nations left in the world who have not yet ratified the treaty despite signing it.

The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is an international human rights treaty aimed to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment around the world.

Appearing for the Centre, solicitor general Ranjit Kumar has sought some time to work on the issue saying that before a fresh bid is made some states are to be consulted.

Meanwhile the Supreme Court commented, “It is nice to say that we are committed to the treaty, but there has to be a law.”

Kumar also informed that the Bill on torture was moved in 2010 in Lok Sabha by the erstwhile UPA-II regime, a process in which he participated as the former law minister and senior advocate, but the legislation had lapsed.

To this, the bench said, “It has to be non-partisan. This is an important issue.”

Since the issue falls under the domain of the Executive and the Legislature, Kumar cannot seek a direction to the centre to legislate.

Kumar also sought directions to frame an effective law on the issue and empower agencies like The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) with necessary enforcement capabilities and mechanisms to implement its orders and directions.

The convention was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on December 10, 1984 and was implemented on June 26, 1987 after being ratified by 20 nations. It asks nations to take effective steps to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction by criminalising all acts of torture and forbids them to send citizens to any country where they believe they could be in danger or subjected to torture.

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