Custodial interrogation: The new law and the reality

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2008 seeks to extend the maximum number of days a suspect can be detained for interrogation to 180 days, if it is not possible to complete the investigation within 90 days. First, it is not clear why India needs such lengthy period for interrogation, when other countries in their anti-terror laws provided for a far less period ( According to Kapil Sibal, who took part in the debate in Parliament, under the Patriot Act in the U.S., an accused non-citizen is presented before the magistrate within 7 days. In U.K., under the Terrorism Act, 2006, an accused could be detained for 28 days. Sibal cited this to suggest that our laws are more stringent than those in these countries. Agreed. He could have as well explained why we require such lengthy period, and whether we have any inherent defects/insufficiencies in investigation. Second, I’m surprised that this factor is cited as a justification for the new law, when under S.167 of Cr.P.C., the maximum permissible period for custodial interrogation is already 90 days for offences punishable with death, life imprisonment or imprisonment for 10 years. Third, as this news report shows, the Courts do have discretion to extend the period of detention for custodial interrogation. The Delhi High Court’s judgment in this case, which may be uploaded in a few days, may throw further light on this.

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  • Venkaesan, Tarun,

    Why do you guys not start an online petition or something in this regard, which can be presented to the government? I remember that Shamnad Basheer had done something similar on an IP issue and it can serve to mobilise public opinion. There are a lot of us – not just academicians but practising lawyers and i guess students – who feel that this is not just not the best way to tackle terrorism, but possibly among the worst ways to go about it. I think that a blog like yours should take an initiative more than just a discussion on one blog. There are people in government also who are a bit worried about the state of things; perhaps you can take a greater role in educating the public about the dangers of a knee-jerk reaction like this. Of course you will be criticised, but in case you believe strongly about it, may I suggest that this is one issue where you need to do a little more than just discuss on one blog…