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Supreme Court Asks for Data on Humane Method of Execution

  • 23 Mar 2023
  • 4 min read

For Prelims: Prisoners Reforms, Code of Criminal Procedure, Death Penalty, Indian Penal Code, Article 72 of Indian Constitution.

For Mains: Major Issues Around Execution of Prisoners, Current Provision of Death Penalty in India.

Why in News?

The Supreme Court of India has asked the Centre to provide data that may lead to a more dignified, less painful, and socially acceptable method of executing prisoners other than death by hanging.

  • The court even suggested the formation of an expert committee to relook at India's current method of putting criminals to death.

What are the Arguments Around Execution of Prisoners?

  • The court clarified that it was not questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty but rather the method of execution.
    • The government had said the mode of execution is a "matter of legislative policy," and the death penalty is awarded only in the rarest of rare cases.
  • The court was hearing a petition challenging the constitutionality of death by hanging as a mode of execution.
    • Section 354 (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure mandates that a person sentenced to death shall “be hanged by the neck till he is dead”.
    • It is argued that there is a need to evolve a "humane, quick, and decent alternative" and termed hanging as "cruel and barbarous" compared to lethal injection.
  • However, the Centre had filed an affidavit in 2018 supporting death by hanging and had not found the method of execution "barbaric, inhuman, and cruel" compared to firing squads and lethal injections.

What is the Current Provision of Death Penalty in India?

  • Certain offences under Indian Penal Code, for which the offenders can be sentenced to punishment of death are:
    • Murder (Section 302)
    • Dacoity with murder (Section 396)
    • Criminal Conspiracy (Section 120B)
    • Waging war against the Government of India or attempting to do so (Section 121)
    • Abatement of mutiny (Section 132) and others.
  • The term death penalty is sometimes used interchangeably with capital punishment, though imposition of the penalty is not always followed by execution, it can be commuted into life imprisonment or pardoned by the President under Article 72 of Indian Constitution.

Where does the Death Penalty Exist in the World?

  • According to Amnesty International, the death penalty continues to be quite widespread Asia, with China, India, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia, among others
    • The death penalty is rare in Europe and the Americas – with the notable exceptions of Belarus, Guyana, Cuba and the United States.
  • 110 countries and territories around the world have abolished the death penalty, most recently Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea and Equatorial Guinea.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Q. Instances of the President’s delay in commuting death sentences has come under public debate as denial of justice. Should there be a time specified for the President to accept/reject such petitions? Analyse. (2014)

Source: TH

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