NEW DELHI: Chief Justice N.V. Ramana on Sunday said the threat to human rights and bodily integrity are the highest in police stations and even the privileged are not spared the third-degree treatment.
Justice Ramana was delivering the keynote address at an event organised by the National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) to launch the “vision and mission statement” and the mobile app for NALSA.
Emphasizing human rights and dignity are sacrosanct, the Chief Justice said: “The threat to human rights and bodily integrity are the highest in police stations. Custodial torture and other police atrocities are problems which still prevail in our society. Going by the recent reports even the privileged are not spared third-degree treatment”.
He stressed that in spite of constitutional declarations and guarantees, lack of effective legal representation at the police stations is a huge detriment to arrested or detained persons. He emphasized that the decisions taken in these early hours will later determine the ability of the accused to defend himself.
“To keep police excesses in check dissemination of information about the constitutional right to legal aid and availability of free legal aid services is necessary. The installation of display boards and outdoor hoardings in every police station/prison is a step in this direction”, he said.
For a society to remain governed by the rule of law, the Chief Justice said it is imperative to bridge the gap of accessibility to justice between the highly privileged and the most vulnerable.
“The realities of socio-economic diversity which prevail in our nation, cannot ever be a reason for denial of rights. If, as an institution, the judiciary wants to garner the faith of the citizens, we have to make everyone feel assured that we exist for them. For the longest time, the vulnerable population has lived outside the system of justice,” he added.
He added that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we have successfully been able to continue our legal aid services.
“Majority of those who do not have access to justice are from rural and remote areas which suffer from lack of connectivity. I have already written to the government emphasizing the need to bridge the digital divide on a priority basis”, he added.
Citing NALSA has roped in Department of Post, the Chief Justice said: “The services of the existing postal network can be utilized to spread awareness regarding the availability of free legal aid services and to increase the outreach of legal services to the eligible category of persons, especially to the persons residing in rural and far-flung areas of the country”.
Concluding the address, he cited Martin Luther King Junior, “Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle, the tireless exertion and passionate concern of dedicated individuals”.