Once an integral part of India's freedom struggle, Pune's Yerawada Central Prison now has another tag — the jail with the highest number of death row inmates in the state, and possibly the nation.
The prison now houses 34 convicts facing the death penalty, the maximum in the state after 11, given the capital punishment in the 1993 serial blasts case, were moved to the high-security prison.
"With 34 convicts facing death, Yerawada has the maximum number of people facing the capital punishment," Yerawada Central Prison superintendent Rajendra Dhamane told Hindustan Times
. "But most prisoners facing the death sentence have been brought to the jail from outside the state."
The high court has upheld the sentences of some of these convicts. "They are now awaiting a review petition to be heard by the Supreme Court," Dhamane said.
Those facing the death penalty have been convicted of crimes ranging from rape and murder to waging war and hatching conspiracy. Two of the 34 are women including Seema Gavit, who along with sister Renuka, kidnapped and killed five children between 1990-1996.
The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Seema, who is likely to be the next convict to be executed although when that would happen has not yet been decided. Renuka is lodged in the Nagpur prison and too faces the death penalty.
"So far 56 convicts have been executed at Yerawada. No executions have taken place since 1995," said George Vettikunnal, Research Officer, Inspectorate (prison). Most executions took place in pre-Independence days when freedom fighters Mahatma Gandhi, and Jawaharlal Nehru too were confined here.
Asim Sarode, a lawyer and human rights activist, said Amrutlal Joshi was the last convict to be hanged at Yerawada in 1995. Before that two terrorists, Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha, were hanged in 1992 for assassinating general Arun Vaidya, Sarode said.