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Technology is no Panacea for Custodial Deaths - UPSC Current Affairs

Jul 15, 2022

Technology is no Panacea for Custodial Deaths - UPSC Current Affairs

In today’s edition of our Current Affairs Dialog box we will discuss Technology is no Panacea for Custodial Deaths in detail.

Navigate through the article to get useful insights on the topic and enhance your civils preparation. Its relevance to the CSE syllabus is mentioned below:

Prelims: Deception detection tests, Brain fingerprinting, NCRB 

Mains: Custodial deaths, Police reforms, Prison Reforms  


The recent spate of custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu has yet again highlighted the methods used by the police during interrogation. 

Probable Question

What are custodial deaths? Do you think technology is a panacea for custodial deaths?

Two Decades Data of Custodial Deaths in India

  • India has a grim record in police brutality and custodial violence. 
  • According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data between 2001 and 2018, 1,727 persons died in police custody, but only 26 policemen were convicted for such deaths. 

About Custodial Death

  • Custodial death means the death of a person occurring during custody, directly or indirectly caused by and substantially attributable to acts committed upon the deceased while in custody. 
  • It includes death occurring in police, private or medical premises, in a public place or in a police or other vehicle or in jail. 
  • It also includes death occurring while a person is being arrested or taken into detention or being questioned.

Reasons for Custodial Deaths

  • Lack of effective legal representation at police stations is a huge detriment to arrested or detained persons. The first hours of arrest or detention often decide the fate of the case for the accused.
  • Lengthy and expensive formal processes followed by courts dissuade the poor and the vulnerable.
  • Absence of Strong Legislation
  • Institutional Challenges like India also fails in bringing the much-desired Prison Reforms. For example, prisons are in very poor conditions, overcrowded, acute manpower shortages and minimal safety against harm.

Technological Solutions

  • Body Cameras 
    • Use of Body cameras could hold officers liable. 
  • Deception Detection Tests
    • Deception detection tests are scientific and psychiatric tests that are being used to gather some important information.
    • DDTs which deploy technologies such as polygraph, narco-analysis and brain mapping, could be valuable in learning information that is known only to a criminal regarding a crime.
  • Brain Fingerprint System (BFS)
    • Brain fingerprinting is a type of lie-detection scientific technique to detect concealed information stored in the brain by measuring event-related potential (ERP) brainwave responses. 
    • The BFS is an innovative technology that several police forces contemplate adding to their investigative tools. 
    • BFS has proved helpful for solving crimes, identifying perpetrators, and exonerating innocent suspects. 
    • The technique helps investigative agencies uncover clues in complicated cases. 
  • Robots
    • Police departments are increasingly using robots for surveillance and bomb detection. 
    • Many departments now want robotic interrogators for interrogating suspects. 
    • Many experts today believe that robots can meet or exceed the capabilities of the human interrogator. 
    • Robots equipped with AI and sensor technology can build a rapport with the suspects, utilize persuasive techniques like flattery, shame and coercion, and strategically use body language.  
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) 
    • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are emerging as tools of interrogations. 
    • AI can detect human emotions and predict behavior. 
    • ML can in real-time alert superiors when police are meting out inhumane treatment to suspects.
  • Valid Concerns
    • 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 Machine Learning (ML) algorithms targeting individuals and communities, and the hazard of its misuse for surveillance. 
    • 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. 
    • It might provide comfort and transparency; it can never address the underlying issues that lead to these situations.

Also Watch the detailed video on Correct Books for UPSC Preparation:

Way Forward

  • There is a need for the formulation of a multi-pronged strategy by the decision-makers encompassing legal enactments, technology, accountability, training and community relations. 
  • Implementing 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.   
  • Stringent action must be taken against personnel who breach the commandments issued by the apex court in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997). In this judgment, SC held that the use of third-degree methods by police is illegal and should not be used to extract the information from the accused.
  • The Draft Bill on the Prevention of Torture, 2017, needs to be revived.

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