By Aparajita Jha


Date of Judgement – 18th December, 1996

Equivalent Citation – (1997) 1 SCC 416

Bench (2) – Kuldip Singh and A.S. Anand




  • The appellant D.K. Basu was the executive chairman of the Legal Aid Services Cell, West Bengal.


  • He sent a letter to the then Chief Justice of India, requesting him to pay attention to certain published news articles in the Telegraph Newspaper regarding happenings of deaths in police custody.


  • His letter was considered under the category of writ petitions within Public Interest Litigation (PIL).


  • Another letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India by Ashok Johri, on similar grounds requesting his attention towards to death of Mahesh Bihari in custody of Aligarh Police was listed along with the petition of D.K. Basu.


  • The court issued a notice to all the state governments and the Law Commission of India requesting them to submit suggestions with respect to the case within a period of 2 months.


  • States like West Bengal, Haryana, Assam, Maharashtra etc. filed their affidavits.


  • A.M. Singhvi was appointed as amicus curiae.



  • Increasing rate of incidents of custodial torture and death.


  • Are the actions undertaken by policemen arbitrary?


  • Is there any need to specify some guidelines to make an arrest?




  • The court adjudged that every person even those who are in custody have the access to basic human rights and dignity.


  • The court also felt that the Fundamental Rights of prisoners under Article 21 and 22 of the constitution must be protected.


  • It was also held that there is a need of transparency in the structure for an effective machinery.

 The court issued 11 pointer guidelines to safeguard the rights of prisoners and detenues. These guidelines are: –

  1. The person arrested must have a right to meet his legal advisor.
  2. The person arrested has to be medically examined every 48 hours.
  3. The person under custody has to be produced before the magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest.
  4. The relatives of the arrested person must be informed by the arresting authorities.
  5. A memorandum must be made at the time of the arrest of a person.
  6. The memorandum along with other relevant and required documents must be submitted before the magistrate.
  7. There must be a police control room in every district and the information about the prisoner must be circulated in all those.
  8. There must be an entry in the diary about the arrest of the person.
  9. The arresting authority must carry a badge that clearly and distinctly indicates his name and designation.
  10. The arresting authority must also notify any relative or friend of the arrested person about the place and time of the arrest.
  11. The arrested person must be informed about his right to have someone notified about his arrest and the course of action to be taken on his behalf.



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