New Delhi, May 2 : Human rights watchdog Amnesty International India and the People's Union for Civil Liberties, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, will release a Report on Death Penalty here today.
This will be the first report dealing with the status of death penalty in India since independence.
According to Amnesty, recently in November 2007, the Indian Government had failed to affirm a resolution at the 62nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly for a Global Moratorium on Executions though 104 countries supported it.
Furthermore, the lack of a strong campaign by civil society organisations in India for the abolition of death penalty in India and the consistent push by certain political forces to mandate and preserve death sentence jeopardize the enjoyment of the right to life, and therefore, right to a life with dignity.
The death penalty remains an issue of concern in the movement to protect the right to life, primarily due to the following reasons:
-Secrecy and cruelty towards people on death row, judicial subjectivity and errors in criminal judicial system and political opportunism
- Forms of torture that precede the taking away of life
- Failure of death penalty as effective deterrence to crimes like rape and murder, political violence, terrorism, suicide bombing, and
- As an ineffective tool in booking perpetrators of genocide or caste atrocities.
Capital punishment is legal in India although rarely used. Between 1975 and 1991, about 40 people were executed, though there was a period between 1995 and 2004 when there were no executions. Therefore India has the lowest execution rate amongst retentionist countries.
In August 2004, a 41-year-old former security man, Dhananjoy Chatterjee, was executed for raping and killing a 14-year-old schoolgirl in Calcutta. This was the country's first execution since 1995 and the first execution in West Bengal since 1993 when Kartik Sil and Sukumar Burman were hanged.
The death penalty is to be used in the "rarest of rare" cases according to a finding of the Supreme Court of India, although the meaning of this phrase is not clearly defined. Capital punishment can be imposed for murder, instigating a child's suicide, treason, acts of terrorism, or a second conviction for drug trafficking. A judge can refuse to award the death sentence even in "rarest of the rare" cases by providing reasons for doing so.
About 40 mercy petitions are pending before the president, some of them from 1992. At least 3 are women. Many more are on death row after having been sentenced to die by lower courts, but on appeal most of them are likely to be commuted to life imprisonment by the State High Courts or the Supreme Court of India.