ACHR PRESS RELEASE

ACHR INDEX: PR/IND/03/2013
Date: 14 February 2013

1,455 persons awarded death penalty in India from 2001 to 2011

– one death penalty in less than every third day in India -

New Delhi: Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) in its report “The State of Death Penalty in India 2013” (http://achrweb.org/reports/india/IndiaDeathPenaltyReport2013.pdf) stated that as per the records of the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, a total of 1,455 convicts or an average of 132.27 convicts per year were given death penalty during 2001 to 2011. During the same period, the highest number of death penalty was imposed in Uttar Pradesh (370) followed by Bihar (132), Maharashtra (125), Karnataka and Tamil Nadu (95 each), Madhya Pradesh (87), Jharkhand (81), West Bengal (79), Delhi (71), Gujarat (57), Rajasthan (38), Kerala (34), Odisha (33), Haryana (31), Assam (21), Jammu and Kashmir (20), Punjab (19), Chhattisgarh (18), Uttaranchal (16), Andhra Pradesh (8), Meghalaya (6),Chandigarh and Daman & Diu (4 each), Manipur and Himachal Pradesh (3 each), Tripura and Pondichery (2 each) and Goa (1). In the rest of the States (Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim) and Union Territories (Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Lakswadweep), no death penalty was imposed.

“This implies that on average one convict is awarded death penalty in less than every third day in India. The rarest of rare case doctrine for application of death penalty has become routine. Death penalty is no longer the exception but the rule.”- stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Coordinator of the National Campaign for Abolition of Death Penalty in India and Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

Thousands of convicts remain on death row. This is established by the fact that during 2001 to 2011, sentences for 4,321 persons were commuted from death penalty to life imprisonment with the highest number of commutation in Delhi (2462) followed by  Uttar Pradesh (458), Bihar (343), Jharkhand (300), Maharashtra (175), West Bengal (98), Assam (97), Odisha (68), Madhya Pradesh (62), Uttaranchal (46), Rajasthan (33), Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Chhattisgarh (24 each), Haryana and Kerala (23 each), Jammu and Kashmir (18) etc.

Asian Centre for Human Rights called for abolition of death penalty stating that “The execution of Nathuram Vinayak Godse for assassination of none other than the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, has not acted as a deterrent against assassination of many prominent political leaders including former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, Member of Parliament Lalit Maken and many other prominent political leaders.”

There is no scientific or empirical basis to suggest that death penalty acts as a deterrent against any crime. Though no execution had been carried out since the execution of Dhananjoy Chatterjee on 14 August 2004, the number of murder cases have been reducing. According to the National Crimes Record Bureau, in 2001 a total of 36,202 murder cases were registered in India. Though the population of India increased from 1.028 billion in 2001 to 1.21 billion in 2011, the murder cases indeed reduced to 34,305 in 2011.

Commenting on the execution of Afzal Guru, Asian Centre for Human Rights stated India must assuage the sentiments of the Afzal Guru’s family members who have effectively been not informed about the impending execution on 9th February 2013. The State itself must not be flouting or circumventing the rules as it erodes the belief in the rule of law. Guru was hanged out of the queue and was denied the right to appeal against the rejection of mercy petition.

“The interventions of the Supreme Court against rejection of mercy petition of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, the Guwahati High Court against rejection of mercy petition of Mahendra Nath Das and the Madras High Court against rejection of mercy petitions of Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan have established that the decision of the President of India on mercy petitions is further subject to judicial review and this opportunity to appeal has been denied to Afzal Guru.” - further stated Mr Chakma.

Further commenting on the latest rejection of mercy petitions of four accused namely Gnanprakasham, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran who were sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in January 2004 in connection with the killing of 21 policemen in a landmine blast at Palar in Karnataka in 1993, Mr Chakma stated, “It appears that the Government of India in its attempt to address political fallout of the botched up execution of Afzal Guru and the expressed position of the members of the United Progressive Alliance government on death penalty in certain cases will carry out further executions of death row convicts not connected with political sensitivities”.

Asian Centre for Human Rights stated that India must follow its own civilisational values. Mythologies of India are full of stories about criminals being reformed. Valmiki, the author of the epic Ramayana, was a highway robber known as Ratnakara until he came under the influence of Maharshi Narada to leave the paths of sin. Similarly, according to Buddhist literature, Daku Angulimala (“dacoit who wears finger necklace/garland”) was a ruthless killer who was redeemed by a sincere conversion to Buddhism.  India as the land of Valmiki, Lord Buddha, Gandhi etc must follow its own civilisational values and take effective measures to join the countries which have abandoned retributive justice system and abolished death penalty. [Ends]