In 2019, fewer death sentences overall; 1 out of 2 sentences for sexual violence-murder; in 3 out of 4 sexual violence-murder death sentences, children were the killer’s victims
Trial courts in India delivered 102 death sentences in 2019, over 60% fewer than the 162 death sentences passed in 2018. The courts were, however, especially unforgiving of murders that involved sexual violence — the proportion of death sentences imposed for murders involving sexual offences was at a four-year high in 2019 at 52.94% (54 out of 102 sentences).
2019 also saw the highest number of confirmations by High Courts in four years; 17 out of the 26 confirmations (65.38%) were in offences of murder involving sexual violence. The Supreme Court, primarily during the tenure of the previous Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, listed and heard 27 capital cases, the most in a year since 2001.
These are the headline findings in the fourth edition of The Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistics, published by Project 39A at the National Law University (NLU), Delhi. Project 39A is a research and litigation initiative focussed on the criminal justice system, and especially issues of legal aid, torture, death penalty, and mental health in prisons.
The report tracked news of death sentences awarded by trial courts published online by news organisations in English and Hindi, and checked these numbers against judgments uploaded to websites of High Court and district courts. Efforts were made to verify the news reports by applying to the Governor secretariats and Home Departments in each state under the Right to Information Act, the report said.
The NLU’s Death Penalty Research Project, which in 2016 produced a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind report on the administration of capital punishment in the country, had noted that there are no reliable numbers of the total number of death row prisoners in India; there is also no official record of the total number of prisoners executed since Independence.
All data from Death Penalty in India, Annual Statistics Report 2019
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