UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | Custodial Deaths and Technology | 4 July 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about custodial deaths, technological solutions and the concerns associated.

Syllabus: GS-II Criminal Justice system; GS-III Technological solutions

Custodial Deaths:

  • Between 2001 and 2018, 1,727 persons died in police custody, but only 26 policemen were convicted for such deaths. The recent spate of custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu has yet again highlighted the methods used by the police during interrogation
  • Custodial deaths are common despite enormous time and money being spent on training police personnel to embrace scientific methods of investigation. 

Technological Solutions:

  • Several technological solutions are available to help prevent custodial deaths.
    • These include body cameras and automated external defibrillators. There is no doubt that technology can help avert police custodial deaths.
      • For example, body cameras could hold officers liable.
  • Deception detection tests (DDTs), which deploy technologies such as polygraph, narco-analysis and brain mapping, could be valuable in learning information that is known only to a criminal regarding a crime.
    • Among the DDTs, the Brain Fingerprinting System (BFS) is an innovative technology that several police forces contemplate adding to their investigative tools. BFS has proved helpful for solving crimes, identifying perpetrators, and exonerating innocent suspects.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are emerging as tool of interrogation. AI can detect human emotions and predict behaviour. 


  • In 2010, the Supreme Court, in Selvi v. State of Karnataka, rendered the evidence through BFS inadmissible.
    • The court observed that the state could not perform narco analysis, polygraph, and brain-mapping tests on any individual without their consent. With informed consent, however, any information or material discovered during the BFS tests can be part of the evidence.
    • As the BFS is high-end technology, it is expensive and unavailable in several States.
  • Lot of concern about AI or robot interrogations, both legally and ethically.
  • There exists the risk of bias, the peril of automated interrogation tactics, the threat of ML algorithms targeting individuals and communities, and the hazard of its misuse for surveillance. 

Way Out:

  • What we need is the formulation of a multi-pronged strategy by the decision-makers encompassing legal enactments, technology, accountability, training and community relations.
  • The Law Commission of India’s proposition in 2003 to change the Evidence Act to place the onus of proof on the police for not having tortured suspects is important in this regard.
  • The draft bill on the Prevention of Torture, 2017, which has not seen the day, needs to be revived. 

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