On Torture, and Confessions

The issue of torture and custodial interrogations have been discussed previously on this blog. In an article in today’s Indian Express titled ‘The Kasab Contradiction’, Vinay Sitapati suggests that the Kasab saga exposes a key contradiction: while on the one hand, India is using Kasab’s confessions to build international support against Pakistan, on the other hand, Kasab’s confessions are inadmissible in Indian courts. Drawing on Arun Jaitley’s suggestions on this issue, Mr. Sitapati suggests safeguards that serve as checks on torture so that confessions may be admissible in court. It will interesting to debate the extent to which Mr. Sitapati’s suggestions blur the vital distinction between a magistrate and a police officer (the former interested in finding the truth, and the latter interested in a conviction). On my reading of the piece, it seems that Mr. Sitapati’s suggestions do not take away the responsibility of the Magistrate, or ignore this distinction; if anything they maintain the role of Magistrate, and place additional responsibilities on the police.

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Tarunabh Khaitan
Tarunabh Khaitan
13 years ago

1. UN Security Council is not required to follow due process, a court of law is. Sudhir’s distinction between political and legal facts is very relevant.

2. The issue of confessions is not limited to this case. Torture is an institutional problem in India and it is irresponsible to ignore it. Vinay’s safeguard is useful, but our opaque jails and the requirement of governmental proof before prosecution of a public servant means that torture is almost never proved. Similarly, videotaping might prove that there was no torture during the confession – what about before and after? Clearly, some of these safeguards are necessary, but they are not sufficient to root out torture. Making confessions admissible will make a terrible situation worse, if that were possible.

3. The question with confessions to police officers is not merely one of torture but also reliability. Do we trust the police enough? The independent magistrate in an open court may not be the best alternative, but I will trust them with my body sooner than any policewallah.