Amnesty International report: Death penalty has resurfaced in India

New Delhi/ London, April 11 : Amnesty International has disclosed in its recent report that death penalty has resurfaced in India, during 2012, after a long lull in execution at the gallows, for 'public pressures' and 'political influences'.

The report also stated that this was in contrast to several other nations around the globe, opting for penal system free of capital punishment

Amnesty International also claimed in London that public pressures and political motives in India facilitated the resumption of death penalty.

Death Penalty Advisor to Amnesty International, Jan Erik Wetzel in London said, "The resumption of the executions in India is most likely based on a variety of reasons. One of which is public pressure and another one would be political considerations by the government employees."

However, commenting on the issue of capital punishment, a senior advocate in New Delhi said that the prevailing law in India imposes death penalty under 'rare of the rarest' circumstances.

Senior advocate, Ravi Prakash Gupta further said, "Death sentence acts as a deterrent and therefore, death sentence has been retained in the Indian Penal Code and by our legal system. But the court has said that it should be given only in a very rare of the rarest circumstances and not keeping in view that way of the retribution, you are conferring the death sentence on anybody."

Earlier in November, the country carried out its first execution since 2004 when they hanged Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor of the militant squad that killed 166 people in the 2008 attacks on the financial capital, Mumbai.

Kasab's execution sparked off celebrations across the country. People burst firecrackers and exchanged sweets among themselves to hail this execution as a justice for the victims of Mumbai attacks.

In August, the Supreme Court had upheld Kasab's 2010 death sentence over the attacks.

Later, President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Kasab's plea for clemency on November 5.

Another execution that was ordered less than three months after the nation executed Kasab they went on to execute a Kashmiri militant, Afzal Guru.

India hanged Mohammad Afzal Guru for his role in the attack on the Parliament House in 2001. Reportedly, he was executed without any prior and formal intimation to his family members residing in the valley region of Jammu and Kashmir (J and K).

President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Afzal Guru's mercy petition and he was hanged at 8 a.m. at the Tihar Jail in New Delhi.

President Pranab Mukherjee has been empowered by the Article 72 of the country's constitution to grant pardon, suspend and commute the death sentence of convicts facing the gallows.

However, the Article 72 doesn't mention anything about the time frame within which a mercy petition must be disposed.

Guru was convicted of helping organise arms for the gunmen who made the attack and a place for them to stay. He always maintained his innocence.

India had also recently approved a tougher new law to punish sex crimes, including death for repeat rape offenders, after the fatal gang rape of a para-medic student in December, 2012 sparked unprecedented protests over the treatment of women in the country.

The law maintains life imprisonment for rape as the maximum sentence, yet sets down the death penalty for repeat offenders and those whose victims are left in a 'vegetative state'.

The 23-year-old woman was raped and beaten with an iron bar by five men and a teenager on a moving bus in December. The woman died of internal injuries two weeks later.

Irked by this incident, several protestors, across India, demanded death penalty for all the six accused persons.

Some Indians support stringent actions, taken against criminals to evoke a sense of fear among the culprits.

Abhas Kumar, a student said, "Death punishment in India is necessary to warn and evoke fear in the minds of people. Criminal activities are increasing. Criminals here are not afraid to commit crimes because they feel that they will be released from jail in two or three days and above all, the trial against them takes a long time."

Meanwhile, Nilika Mehrotra, a faculty member of sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi said that the nationalist radical outfits in the country often demand executions of militants.

She termed such demands by right wing outfits as not a healthy sign from the aspects of humanity.

"Right-wing parties have been, you know, asking for a more stringent, you know, laws on terrorism and there they would like to have more stringent kind of punishment and death penalty is one of the ways in which they would like terrorists to be exterminated or executed. And it is a kind of a dangerous position," she concluded.

According to a publication by a non-government organisation (NGO), National Human Rights Law Network, India was among the minority of countries, in December 2007, which voted at the United Nations General Assembly against a moratorium on executions.

The Amnesty International study said that besides India, executions resumed in other countries of the Asia-Pacific region including Japan and Pakistan, after it seemed that they had done away with the punishment.

A data released by the country's National Crime Records Bureau in 2011, indicated there were 477 convicts in Indian prisons either waiting for execution or commutation of their death sentence into life imprisonment.

--ANI (Posted on 11-04-2013)

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