New Delhi. Chief Justice of India (CJI) N. V. Raman (CJI NV Ramana) said on Sunday that the police stations are at the highest risk of human rights violations. The CJI said that custodial torture and other police atrocities are still going on in the country. He said that even ‘privileged people are not spared from ‘third degree’ torture. He also advocated for sensitizing the police officers in the country. The Chief Patron of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), the CJI, said that dissemination of information about the constitutional right to legal aid and the availability of free legal aid services is necessary to prevent police excesses. “In each police station, jail, display boards and hoardings are a step in this direction,” he said. Also said that NALSA should take steps to sensitize the police officers in the country.
Justice Ramana was addressing at the launch of Legal Services Mobile Application (App) and vision and ‘Mission Statement’ of NALSA at Vigyan Bhawan. The mobile app will help the poor and needy people to apply for legal aid and seek compensation to the victims. NALSA was formed under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalat’s towards amicable settlement of disputes.
Describing the ‘Access to Justice’ program as an ongoing campaign, the CJI said it is necessary to “bridging the gap in access to justice between the most privileged and the most vulnerable” to become a society governed by the rule of law. “If, as an institution, the judiciary wants to gain the trust of citizens, we have to assure everyone that we are there for them. For a long time, vulnerable populations have been left out of the justice system.
Past does not determine future – CJI
The CJI said, ‘The future should not be determined by the past and everyone should work to bring equality’. He said, ‘The risk of human rights and bodily injury, harm is highest in the police stations. Custodial torture and other police atrocities are problems that still exist in our society. Despite constitutional declarations and guarantees, lack of effective legal representation in police stations is a major disadvantage for persons arrested or detained.
“The decisions taken in these early hours will later determine the ability of the accused to defend himself,” he said. Recent reports suggest that even the privileged are not spared from ‘third-degree’ torture. He said the current constraints like internet connectivity and lengthy, laborious and costly judicial processes add to the woes of realizing the goals of ‘access to justice’ in India. Citing the digital divide between rural India and the urban population, the CJI said, “Most of the people who do not have access to justice are from rural and remote areas that suffer from lack of connectivity.” I have already written to the government stressing the need to bridge the digital gap on a priority basis.
He suggested that the postal network can be used to spread awareness about the availability of free legal aid services and to increase the reach of legal services to the people living in remote areas of the country. The CJI asked lawyers, especially senior lawyers, to help those in need of legal aid and urged the media to use NALSA’s “ability to spread the message of service”. (with language input)