First-of-its-kind report provides 360-degree view of the administration of capital punishment — who gets it, and what it is to live in death’s shadow. A statistical snapshot
Reason and scope of Study
The National Law University’s Death Penalty Research Project has prepared a socio-economic profile of prisoners sentenced to death in India, using statistics and case studies, to help create a resource for an in-depth understanding of the administration of the death penalty in India.
Over the period July 2013 to January 2015, the Project was able to interview most prisoners on death row, and their families. There are no reliable numbers of the total number of death row prisoners in India. There is also no official record with any Ministry or agency of the total number of prisoners executed since Independence.
The researchers got help from the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) and state- and district-level legal authorities, made prison visits, filed RTI applications, and got information from High Courts. They identified 385 prisoners, and got access to 373 of them. All interviews were essentially “conversations”, during which notes were taken.
There is no exhaustive list of offences punishable by death. 59 sections in 18 central laws, including 12 sections under the Indian Penal Code, including both homicide and non-homicide offences, carry the death penalty. Provisions in state laws are separate, and have not been put together in one list.
The constitutionality of the death penalty was last upheld in May 1980 by a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court that ruled that it did not violate the right to life guaranteed by Article 21; however, the death penalty should be imposed only in the “rarest of rare” cases. The Law Commission of India, in its 262nd Report in August 2015, recommended the abolition of the death penalty in phases, beginning with ending it for all offences except those related to terrorism.
Stages in Death Sentence Cases
Graphic: Mithun Chakraborty
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