May 28, 2024

D.K. Basu Vs. State of West Bengal MANU/SC/0157/1997

dk basu

By Anchal Singh

The author is a first year law student at CNLU Patna

Dk Basu v. State of Westbengal
Wikimedia Commons


If the Government becomes a lawbreaker and brings contempt of law; it invites every man to become a law into him” – Justice Louis Brandeis (U.S Supreme Court)

Court has given a landmark judgement under this case. This case protects the accused or the convicts from being exploited. The court, in this case, issued a guideline on how the arrest will take place and how the accused or the person undergoing a trial are to be treated. Custodial death is one of the most important problems that is being faced by the accused and most of the time the accused don’t appeal against the custodial torture as they believe that this is the right of the police to treat them this way.  In such a scenario, this case gives a new hope to the accused or a person in custody to enjoy their rights.                 

Essential details of the case

Case Citation: MANU/SC/0157/1997

Petitioner(s): D.K. Basu

Respondent(s): State of West Bengal

Concerned Statues and Provisions: Section 304/34 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution of India, Article 20(3) of the Constitution.

Bench: Kuldip Singh and Dr. A.S. Anand, JJ.

Date of Judgment: 18.12.1996                                     


When the case happened, D.K.Basu was an executive chairman of Legal aid service in West Bengal. On 20, 21, and 22 July of 1986, and also on 17th August 1986, the Telegraph newspaper published a piece of news related to the torture and deaths in the custody, therefore, D.K.Basu filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court to draw the attention of the court toward the custodial torture and death in the custody. The court accepted the writ petition of D.K.Basu.

This writ petition was addressed to the Chief Justice of India and highlighted the custodial death of Mahesh Bihari from Aligarh by Mr. Ashok Kumar Johri. The letter was additionally treated as a writ petition and was incorporated alongside D.K. Basu’s request for filing a writ. Court ordered the government and requested various commissions to look into this matter and form a guideline within two months.


In this case, Supreme Court issued various guidelines to protect the interests of the persons under custody and protect their rights granted by the Indian constitution. Citing Nilabati Behera versus Province of Orrisa (1993), the court expressed that any type of torture, be it merciless, barbaric, or even corrupting medicines fall under the ambit of Article 21, regardless of whether it happens during the examination, cross-examination, or in any other circumstances. The privileges ensured by Article 21 can’t be denied to the under-trials, convicts, and other detainees in guardianship, apart from the sensible limitations put on certain rights as per the law.

Indeed, subsequent to setting down procedural pre-requisites in Joginder Kumar versus Province of U.P., it has been seen that the police captured an individual without a warrant for the examination of an offense and the captured individual had to undergo a tremendous amount of suffering to gain information from him. The victim and his family can’t be comforted merely by providing punishment to the offender. In such cases, only monetary or money-related compensation is a type of redressal adequately viable to satisfy the family of the deceased in question assuming that the deceased was the sole bread-earner of the family. This is done as in each and every case, it’s a tough row for the court to take into consideration the contentment of people with respect to their social aspirations. So, the Court while considering the compensation took to the view that the individual should be repaid taking into account, the compensatory component and not the punitive one. The objective of the Court was to apply salve to the injuries and not to punish the violator or the wrongdoer, as punishing the offender (regardless of the remuneration) should be left to the criminal courts wherein the guilty party is arraigned, which the State, in law, is compelled by a solemn obligation to do.


 Most of the time, the cases of brutality by the police happens during custody to find the truth and the evidence by torturing the accused so that the accused speaks up and thus, forcing the accused to give self-incriminating evidence which is against Article 20(3) that protects the accused from being compelled to give evidence against himself. In a recent case of Tamil Nadu, a policeman belonging to the Sattankulam police station tortured and subsequently, caused the death of the two accused, P Jeyaraj and his son J Bennicks, in police custody. To establish, that the protection of the right to life guaranteed by the Indian constitution is protected and the fundamental rights of an individual are preserved during police custody, this case has significant importance. In another recent case, a person named Altaf was found dead in judicial custody. The family of the victim claims that Altaf was found dead in the washroom with a string tied around his neck and was hung from a water- pipe[1] held by the police under custody. For this, the court ordered the installation of CCTV in police custody. Obviously, CCTV’s installation violates the right to privacy of the police personnel in the police station but this installation ensures better accountability, protection, and safety of a person under custody. To make sure that everyone’s fundamental right is protected, this case is the perfect example that formed the guidelines.


Read More at LAWOGS

Farm laws repealed: Why? – LAWOGS

Euthanasia in India (


CLAT to be held twice in the year 2022. Preparation tips here. (

More on DK Basu Case

Shri D.K. Basu,Ashok K. Johri vs State Of West Bengal,State Of U.P on 18 December, 1996 (

An upsurge of custodial deaths in India : an analysis of D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal – iPleaders

Case Summary: D.K Basu vs The State of West Bengal – Lawjure

Custodial Torture : Urgent Need For Supreme Court To Ensure CCTV Installation In Police Stations (

%d bloggers like this: