The state has reduced the ignominy of recording the ninth highest number of custodial deaths in the country by slipping to the 14th rank between 2005 and 2012.
Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC) on Tuesday released the data based on the reports compiled by the National Human Rights Commission and the National Crime Records Bureau. “The figures show that there has been positive improvement in Bihar in terms of deaths in police custody compared to other states,” said acting BHRC chairperson Neel Mani.
According to official figures, Bihar recorded 22 deaths in police custody between 2005 and 2012, while Maharashtra topped the list with 169 deaths. Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Bengal reported 122, 91 and 37 deaths, respectively, in the same period.
Records showed that an average of eight custodial deaths were reported from across the country every year between 1995 and 2005. The number reduced to three deaths per year between 2005 and 2012.
Bihar recorded 86 deaths in police custody between 1994 and 2005.
Neel Mani, who was the state police chief before being appointed BHRC member, said Bihar has shown positive signs in recent years compared to the national scenario. He attributed the sharp decline in the number of deaths in police custody in the state to increased awareness among policemen about human rights.
Neel Mani said a series of seminars and meetings were conducted at the state and the divisional headquarters to create awareness about the guidelines of the National Human Rights Commission among the men-in-uniform. The complaints of torture, barring a few ones, in police custody have also decreased, he added.
The acting BHRC chairman said public awareness was another reason for the decline in police custody deaths.
“Now, policemen know that action would be taken against them if they violate the National Human Rights Commission guidelines. This is evident from the stern action initiated against a number of officers accused of violating human rights guidelines,” said Neel Mani.
Rajesh Ranjan Pandey, a practising Patna High Court lawyer, said: “Now, the police have a new attitude towards the people detained for questioning. They take all precautionary measures because they are aware that disciplinary action would be initiated for breach of human rights.”