The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on April 26, 2010, and was passed by the Lok Sabha on May 6 (See Bill Summary here). The Bill was not referred to a Standing Committee of Parliament. The Bill has been introduced to allow India to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Convention against Torture requires member countries to bring their domestic legislation in conformity with the provisions of the Convention. The main features of the Bill, and the issues are highlighted below (For the PRS Legislative Brief on the Bill, click here). Main features of the Torture Bill
|Definition of ‘torture’||A public servant or any person with a public servant’s consent commits torture if all three conditions are met:
|When is torture punishable?||
|Conditions under which courts can admit complaints||
The definition of torture The definition of torture raises the following issues:
Dilution of existing laws on torture The Bill makes it difficult for those accused of torture to be tried. This is because (a) complaints against acts of torture have to be made within six months, and (b) the previous sanction of the appropriate government has to be sought before a court can entertain a complaint.
|Relevant provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code and the Bill.|
|Subject||Criminal Procedure Code||Bill|
|Requirement of government sanction||Sanction needed if (a) a public servant is not removable except with the sanction of the appropriate government, and (b) the public servant was acting in the course of his duties.||Prior sanction of the appropriate government needed in all cases.|
|Time limits for filing complaints||Time-limits exist for offences punishable with maximum imprisonment of up to three years. No time limits for offences which are punishable with imprisonment of more than three years.||There is a time-limit though torture is punishable with maximum imprisonment of up to ten years. Complaints have to be filed within six months.|
|Sources: Sections 197 and 468 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973; PRS.|
Independent authority to investigate complaints There is no independent mechanism/ authority to investigate complaints of torture. The investigating agency in most cases of torture would be the police. In many cases, personnel of the police would also be alleged to have committed torture. In such cases, the effectiveness of investigations in incidents of torture will be affected.
|Independent authorities in other countries to investigate incidents of torture.|
|France||Comptroller General of the places of deprivation of liberty|
|Germany||The Federal Agency for the Prevention of Torture|
|New Zealand||Human Rights Commission, Police Complaints Authority, Children’s Commissioner|
|United Kingdom||18 different organisations, including Independent Monitoring Board, Independent Custody Visiting Associations, etc.|
|Sources: National Preventive Mechanisms, UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture; PRS.|
Discussion on the first no-confidence motion of the 17th Lok Sabha began today. No-confidence motions and confidence motions are trust votes, used to test or demonstrate the support of Lok Sabha for the government in power. Article 75(3) of the Constitution states that the government is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha. This means that the government must always enjoy the support of a majority of the members of Lok Sabha. Trust votes are used to examine this support. The government resigns if a majority of members support a no-confidence motion, or reject a confidence motion.
So far, 28 no-confidence motions (including the one being discussed today) and 11 confidence motions have been discussed. Over the years, the number of such motions has reduced. The mid-1960s and mid-1970s saw more no-confidence motions, whereas the 1990s saw more confidence motions.
Figure 1: Trust votes in Parliament
Note: *Term shorter than 5 years; **6-year term.
Source: Statistical Handbook 2021, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; PRS.
The no-confidence motion being discussed today was moved on July 26, 2023. A motion of no-confidence is moved with the support of at least 50 members. The Speaker has the discretion to allot time for discussion of the motion. The Rules of Procedure state that the motion must be discussed within 10 days of being introduced. This year, the no-confidence motion was discussed 13 calendar days after introduction. Since the introduction of the no-confidence motion on July 26, 12 Bills have been introduced and 18 Bills have been passed by Lok Sabha. In the past, on four occasions, the discussion on no-confidence motions began seven days after their introduction. On these occasions, Bills and other important issues were debated before the discussion on the no-confidence motion began.
Figure 2: Members rise in support of the motion of no-confidence in Lok Sabha