The death row population in India has reached its highest in two decades, according to the latest findings from the eighth edition of the ‘Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistics Report’ released by Project 39A at the National Law University, Delhi. The report reveals a concerning rise of 45.71 percent in the number of death row inmates since 2015, with a total of 561 prisoners awaiting execution by the end of 2023.
In 2023, trial courts across the country imposed 120 death sentences. However, despite this high number of sentences, the year saw the lowest rate of death sentence confirmations by appellate courts since 2000. The report highlighted that the Supreme Court did not confirm any death sentences for the second consecutive year, following the trend set in 2021.
Furthermore, the report pointed out that the President of India rejected one mercy petition in March 2023, concerning a case of kidnapping, rape, and murder of a minor dating back to 2008. Additionally, it noted that 488 death row prisoners are awaiting judgment from high courts.
The statistics outlined in the report underscore the challenges within the Indian judicial system regarding capital punishment. While appellate courts have shown restraint in confirming death sentences, trial courts continue to hand out such sentences at an alarming rate.
Notably, the report highlighted a significant increase in death sentences related to sexual offenses, with nearly 53.30 percent of the sentences imposed in 2023 being for homicidal rape cases. Trial courts frequently imposed death sentences without considering crucial factors such as probation officers’ reports, psychiatric evaluations of the accused, or their jail conduct.
Geographically, Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of death sentences imposed by trial courts in 2023, with 33 cases, followed by Jharkhand with 12 cases. However, states like Manipur, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand did not record any instances of death sentences.
The report also raised concerns about the quality of police investigations and the lower courts’ ability to appreciate evidence in death penalty cases. It highlighted instances where high courts acquitted prisoners due to significant lapses in forensic evidence examination and shortcomings in sentencing procedures.
Additionally, the report discussed the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, which aims to replace the existing Indian Penal Code. This new legislation seeks to expand the scope of offenses punishable by the death penalty from twelve to eighteen. It also introduces regulations on the filing of mercy petitions by death row prisoners and limits the scope of sentences that can be imposed upon commuting a death sentence to life imprisonment.
As India grapples with these challenges surrounding capital punishment, the findings of the report serve as a call to action for reforms within the legal system to ensure fair and just administration of justice.
Crime Today News | India
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