Technology is no panacea for custodial deaths

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Technology is no panacea for custodial deaths

  • Recent spate of custodial deaths in TN has again highlighted methods used by police during interrogation.

Custodial deaths in India

  • 2001 - 2018: 1,727 persons died in police custody, but only 26 policemen were convicted for such deaths.
  • Custodial deaths are common despite enormous time and money being spent on training to embrace scientific methods of investigation.

Technology Available

  • Body cameras and automated external defibrillators.
  • Deception detection tests (DDTs): polygraph, narco-analysis and brain mapping.
  • Brain Fingerprinting System (BFS): Helpful for solving crimes, identifying perpetrators, and exonerating innocent suspects.
  • Robots: Police departments are using robots for surveillance and bomb detection.
  • Automated interrogation technology called The Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time (AVATAR).

Valid concerns

  • Risk of bias, automated interrogation tactics, threat of ML algorithms targeting individuals and communities, and the hazard of its misuse for surveillance.
  • Restrictive Tool: While technology available is constantly improving, it is a restricted tool that can’t eradicate custodial deaths.
  • Multi-pronged strategy: by decision-makers encompassing legal enactments, technology, accountability, training and community relations.
  • Change Evidence Act: Place the onus of proof on the police for not having tortured suspects is important in this regard.
  • Draft bill on Prevention of Torture, 2017 needs to be revived.


  • Technology may make policing more convenient, but it can never be an alternative for compassionate policing established on trust b/w police and citizens.