Libertatem Magazine

Case Commentary on DK.Basu vs State of West Bengal

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  • D.K.Basu, who was an Executive Chairman of Legal Aid Services situated in West Bengal, which is a non-political organization.
  • On August 26, 1986, he wrote a letter to the Supreme Court of India to draw attention to deaths in police custody as published in the Telegraph newspaper.
  • He requested to consider this letter as a writ petition under the PIL(Public Interest Litigation).
  • As the letter contains some important issues, it was treated as a written petition and the defendants were also notified.
  • Meanwhile, Mr. Ashok Kumar Johri also wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of Supreme Court to draw his attention towards, the death of Mahesh Bihari from Pilkhana, Aligarh in police custody.
  • His letter was included along with D.K. Basu’s request for PIL.
  • On 14/08/1987 the court issued notices to all state governments and different law commissions to give their appropriate suggestions within two months.
  • In response to this advisory, many states submitted affidavits, includes West Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya, Manipur, and Maharasthra.


  1. The arbitrariness of police officers when arresting a person.
  2. Why there is an increase in torture and deaths in police custody.
  3. Is it necessary to specify some guidelines to make an arrest?


The petitioner contended that bodily injury and mental torture suffered by any individual within the four walls of a police station or confinement need to be stopped. The scope of trauma experienced by those individuals is beyond the preview of the law. The petitioner further contended that there is a need for a civilized nation, for which it is necessary to take some important measures for its eradication.


Dr. A.M Singhvi, along with counsel who appeared for states, contented that “everything was fine” in their respective states. They also made certain suggestions for the formulation of guidelines by the court to reduce, if any, custodial violence


Referring to the case of Nilabati Behera Vs State of Orissa(1993), the court stated that “any type of torment or barbarous, brutal treatment falls in the ambit of Article 21, regardless of whether it happens during interrogation, investigation or something else. The rights ensured by Article 21, undertrial, convicts, detainees, and other prisoners in custody cannot be denied, unless the procedure established by law when imposing reasonable restrictions on the right allowed by law.”

Even after setting down procedural prerequisites, in Joginder Kumar Vs State of U.P, it has been seen that “the police arrested an individual without any warrant regarding the examination of a crime and detained person has been exposed to torment to removed information or to make a confession.”

As a result of which the court issued some additional guidelines to be followed in every case of arrest and detention. The guidelines are as per the following:-

  • The police officer who makes the arrest and handles the interrogation of the arrested person must wear exact, noticeable, and clear identification and name tags with their respective designation. The details of the officers dealing with the interrogation of the detained person should be recorded in a register.
  • The arresting police officer must prepare a memo of arrest at the time of the arrest and that memo must be signed by a witness, who may be a family member of the arrested person or a local respected person where the arrest is made. Also, it must be signed by the arrested person and the date and time of said arrest must be mentioned in the memo.
  • An individual who has been arrested or detained and is confined in a police station or interrogation center or any other cell must be allowed to have a friend or relative or any other person known to him who has an interest in his well-being, be informed that he has been arrested or detained and kept in a certain place.
  • The police must within 8 to 12 hours after the arrest, notify the time, place of confinement, and place of custody of the arrested person, to the next friend or relative of the arrested person who lives outside the district or city through the legal aid organization in the district and the police station of that area.
  • The detained person must be made aware of his rights that someone must be informed about his arrest as soon he puts in jail.
  • The police officer must keep a diary about the arrest of the person, which also reveals the name of the next friend or relative, who has been informed about his arrest, and the name, details of the police officials in whose custody the arrested person is.
  • The arrested person must be examined during the time of his detention and he can reveal any major or minor injures, if present on his body, and must be registered at that time. The “Inspection Memo” must be signed by the detained person and police officer and a copy must be provided to the arrested person.
  • The detained person must be examined by a trained doctor every 48 hours during their detention.
  • Copies of all the documents must be submitted to the Magistrate for his record.
  • The detained person must be allowed to meet his lawyer


The case gave a landmark judgment where rules for the detention of an individual were recommended otherwise more offenses were committed for the sake of doing equity. It forestalls any encroachment with the rights of an individual during detainment. Although now, the proper system has been set up by law and any individual who does contempt of court is liable to be penalized. The administration of the criminal framework existing in a nation like India required a proper mechanism. This case advanced as a landmark case as the rules gave by the court expected to secure the individual’s rights in police custody. It is a commitment of the state to ensure protection to its citizens, they may be accused of innocent individuals.


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