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In Custody

In Custody
Law, Impunity and Prisoner Abuse in South Asia

First Edition

July 2013 | 502 pages | SAGE India

In Custody examines the professed and actual commitment to custodial justice on the part of six South Asian countries. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have all been affected by the geopolitics of colonialism. Nineteenth century Europe is often simplistically seen as the ideological source of the rights discourse in South Asia. But, like any ideological theme, the discourse on rights is also a negotiated space. Resistance created a need to justify imperialism by importing a purpose to it. Regulation of policing was the coloniser's superior norm, and also, his tool of control.

The erstwhile colonies inherited the practice of affirming norms while systems enabled their breach. Which is not to say that the purpose of norms is merely hypocritical; political struggles and intellectual discourse have, over the years, ensured the recognition of human rights in international instruments, national charters and even in the very pretexts for their breach. Though human rights are inalienable, the modern state has been uniformly guarded in its response to their imperatives. This book traces the historical and contemporary nature of the conflict between the norm and its practice. Constitutions, statutes and mechanisms of justice are reviewed with case studies and interviews that illustrate the many layers of impunity.


Torture as as Public Secret...Introduction

The International Regime on Torture

India's Public Secret

Rights Discourse: Rhetoric and Reality

The Constitution and Custodial Rights

The Penal Code and the Law of Evidence

Due Process: CrPC, Police Acts and Prison Manuals

State of Custodial Justice

Judicial Trends

Perspectives on Torture

Six Case Studies

Pakistan's Regimes

Subverting Due Process: The Force of Religion and the Force of Necessity

The Judiciary

International and Statutory Commitments

Correcting the Custodians

Martial Law and Other Regimes: 1971-2010

International Commitments and Domestic Legal Frameworks

Court Directives and Recommendations of Judicial Commissions

Case Studies

History and Politics

The Constitution and Emergency Legislation

Criminal Law and Custodial Justice

International Law: Obligations and Compliance

Enforced Disappearances

An Overview

The 1990 Constitution

Accountability under the Interim Constitution

The Army

Nepal's Legal Framework

The Torture Compensation Act, 1996

The Courts and Custodial Justice

Five Case Studies

Two Interviews with Law Enforcers

The Land and the People

The Afghan Nation State and the Great Game

1920-1978: Challenges to Constitutionalism

Human Rights and the Soviet Occupation (1978-1992)

Terror and Counter Terror

Afghanistan's Human Rights Norms

Criminal Justice and the State of Human Rights




The book is a mesh of subtle interactions between the lived, the legal and the theoretical aspects around custodial violence. And it succeeds in striking a balance between the three. It is an ideal entry level book for lay persons and at the same time caters equally to research scholars, students and lawyers looking for material for further research on practice....Readers will be benefited from extremely relevant information...the book serves as a very sound and engaging tool in the campaign against custodial violence.
The Book Review, Vol 37, October 2013

[The book] highlights the practice of custodial torture in South Asia and the urgency to engage with it-through the system and through society.... Ramakrishna’s book brings within its compass the entirety of complex dynamics related to the practice of custodial torture, tracing the past and present day nature of the conflict between the norm and its practice, not just in India but also the five nations surrounding it.
The Hindu

The book is an ambitious exercise...performed extraordinarily well with the help of researchers.... [A] timely reminder to strengthen our legal system so as to eschew impunity provisions that come in the way of ensuring justice.

Frontline, 13 December 2013

Commitment to humane treatment of suspects in custody by six South Asian nations — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan — forms the topic of this book by eminent lawyer and activist Nitya Ramakrishnan…. The six case studies make for an agonizing read…. This book is a call, an alarm, a plea for doing something concrete to end this brutal system of interrogation.

The Tribune, 9 May, 2016

Nitya Ramakrishnan

Nitya Ramakrishnan is a well-known lawyer practising in New Delhi, India. She has many terror trial defences to her credit, notably the Indian Parliament Attack Case and the Haren Pandya Murder Case. Also reputed for her media-related cases, Ramakrishnan successfully challenged the censorship imposed on many political documentaries such as Bhopal—Beyond Genocide and Punjab—From Behind the Barricades. More About Author

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