A total of 308 people died in police custody in the three years from 2013 to 2015 — including 75 in Maharashtra — but not a single policeman was convicted in any case related to custody deaths in the country during those years, data from the home ministry showed.
On an overall level, Maharashtra led in the number of such deaths in each of these years.
In 2013, for example, 30% of all custodial deaths happened in Maharashtra, while in the next year, the state accounted for 23% of such deaths. Similarly, in 2015 — the latest year for which data is available — Maharashtra accounted for 20% of the 97 deaths in that year.
Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh also ranked high in the number of custody deaths in the three years. While 30 people lost their lives under arrest in Gujarat, 32 was the number in Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
Adjusted for population (2011 census), Maharashtra again led from the front with 6.67 custody deaths per 1 cr (10 mln) population over the three-year period as a whole.
It was followed by Andhra Pradesh at 6.48 deaths, Gujarat at 4.98 deaths and Assam at 3.52 deaths (see chart above).
Surprisingly, the safest large state in India was Bihar, which had a custody death rate of just 0.29 per crore population for the three years.
In other words, there is a 23 times higher chance of you dying in police custody in Maharashtra than in Bihar.
Bihar, which had a bad reputation as a lawless state, has been under the rule of Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal United for several years. Kumar is credited for restoring law and order in the state.
Other ‘safe’ states include Karnataka, Rajasthan, Odisha, Jharkhand, Punjab and Telangana.
The highest level of custodial deaths among the North Eastern states was in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. Nagaland, Sikkim and Uttarakhand reported no such deaths in the three years.
The numbers also revealed that not a single policeman was convicted in any case related to custody deaths in any court in India during these three years.
However, charges were filed against a total of 57 policemen during this period, indicating that some inquiry was conducted.
There were big differences in the number of policemen chargesheeted.
Among the high-incidence states, Gujarat saw only 1 police official being charged in the three years even though 30 people died in custody.
On the other end, Odisha saw 10 policemen chargesheeted though only 5 deaths were reported there.
Bihar, which saw only 3 deaths in the three years, chargesheeted 4 policemen. The high rate of investigation could explain the low number of custody deaths in the state.
Madhya Pradesh too saw 10 officials chargesheeted compared to a death of 15. Maharashtra saw charges being filed against 14 policemen during the period.