Recently, the Annual Death Penalty Report (2023) was released by Project 39A (a criminal justice program linked with the National Law University, Delhi).

Major findings of the report:

  • Since 2015, there has been a substantial 45.71% surge in the population of inmates on death. Uttar Pradesh stands out with the largest death row population.
  • In the year 2023, trial courts pronounced death sentences for 120 individuals.
  • The Appellate courts (having the Supreme Court and all High Courts) collectively confirmed only one death sentence. The majority of cases were either commuted or resulted in complete acquittals.
  • During the 2022-2023 period, there was a significant decline in the total number of death sentences awarded by trial courts from 167 to 120 respectively. Around 55% of these sentences were linked to homicide rape cases.
  • In 2023, High Courts disposed of fewer cases involving death sentences compared to 2022, with 68 cases concerning 101 prisoners, indicating a rise in the number of individuals on death row.
  • The trial courts are sentenced to death sentences of their cases around 86% due to the absence of limited information related to the accused, despite the SC’s mandate in the Manoj vs State of Madhya Pradesh Case.

About the Death Penalty in India:

  • It refers to the authorized execution of an individual by the state as retribution for a crime. It represents the most severe form of punishment allowable under the prevailing penal legislation.
  • The procedural steps for administering the death penalty entail a trial court pronouncing the sentence, which can subsequently be contested in superior courts such as the High Court and the Supreme Court of India.
  • The President of India holds the authority to either pardon individuals or reduce their sentences.

Arguments favour for Death Penalty in India:

  • The 35th Law Commission report (1962) suggested a preference for retaining the death penalty within the Indian Judicial System.
  • It possesses a deterrent for dissuading individuals who engage in various serious crimes such as murder, rape, or terrorism.
  • It serves as a form of retribution justice for the victims and their families.
  • Some women’s organizations argue that the death penalty reflects society’s moral condemnation of specific acts which reinforces the sanctity of human life by holding individuals accountable for their actions.

Arguments against the Death Penalty in India:

  • As per the Amnesty Report (2021), over two-thirds of the world’s countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
  • View from lawyers: Some argue that life imprisonment without the possibility of parole can serve as a viable substitute for the death penalty which ensures public safety without any consequences associated with execution.
  • Issues regarding wrong execution: Some justice system is limited in nature which highlights the risk of executing innocent persons. Various critics argued that cases of wrong convictions can lead to irreversible outcomes.
  • Global shift towards the abolition of the death penalty: A global trend is emerging towards the elimination of the death penalty which has to increase the number of countries towards the death penalty. In 2023, in Ghana, the government passed a bill to abolish the death penalty for civil matter cases.

Addressing the matter of the death penalty, India calls for a comprehensive and equitable strategy that considers a variety of viewpoints, upholds human dignity, and advances the principles of fairness and justice.

It is essential to foster cooperation among governmental bodies, civil society organizations, legal experts, and various stakeholders to examine alternative methods for dealing with serious crimes while safeguarding human rights.

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