Screenshot of Amnesty International India's Lawless Laws map
Screenshot of Amnesty International India’s Lawless Laws map

The continuing use of administrative detention laws in India to lock up persons without charge or trial violates the rights of both suspects and victims of human rights abuses. An interactive online map published by Amnesty International India today shows how several states continue to retain these laws to detain people on executive orders without charge or trial.

“Every government has a duty to bring to justice those suspected of crimes. But every government also has a duty to respect fair trial rights, and the criminal justice system loses credibility when people are detained for no good reason,” said Abhirr VP, Rapid Response Campaigner at Amnesty International India.

“Administrative detention circumvents the safeguards of a fair trial, and undermines the rule of law.” The Supreme Court has called administrative detention statutes ‘lawless laws’.

Data from the National Crime Records Bureau released in September 2015 indicate that over 3200 people were being held in administrative detention in Indian jails in December 2014.

Central administrative detention laws include the National Security Act and the Prevention of Blackmarketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act. State laws include the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, the Gujarat Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act, and the Karnataka Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act (popularly known as the ‘Goondas Act’).

Periods of possible detention under state laws range from six months to two years. Authorities can impose preventive detention for a range of activities in different states, including boot-legging, land-grabbing and even video piracy. “The procedures and standards of proof of the ordinary criminal justice process are meant to minimize the risk of innocent individuals being punished. But India’s administrative detention laws function as a parallel system, and are used to detain individuals for long periods instead of charging and prosecuting them in a court of law,” said Abhirr VP.

“Not prosecuting persons suspected of offences also violates the victims’ rights to justice.”

Amnesty International India urges the central and state governments to repeal all administrative detention laws. Detained persons must be charged with recognizably criminal offences and promptly prosecuted in fair trials, or else released.