Notwithstanding the rarest of rare doctrine propounded by the Supreme Court, awarding death penalty does not appear to be so rare for courts in India.
Indian courts gave death penalty to 1455 convicts during 2001-11, an average of 132.27 convicts per year, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) said in a report released on Thursday.
Uttar Pradesh topped the list with 370 death sentences, followed by Bihar (132).
Interestingly, no death penalty was imposed in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim) and Union Territories (Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Lakswadweep), the report stated.
Based on records of the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), Union ministry of home affairs, the ACHR report - The State of Death Penalty in India 2013 – said sentences for 4,321 convicts were commuted from death penalty to life imprisonment during this period.
The highest number of commutation – 2,462 – happened in Delhi, followed by followed by Uttar Pradesh (458).
But thousands of convicts still remain on death row, the report stated.
“This implies that on average one convict is awarded death penalty in less than every third day in India. The rarest of rare case doctrine for application of death penalty has become routine.
"Death penalty is no longer the exception but the rule,” said ACHR Director Suhas Chakma, who is Coordinator of the National Campaign for Abolition of Death Penalty in India.
He demanded abolition of capital punishment contending “there is no scientific or empirical basis to suggest that death penalty acts as a deterrent against any crime.”
On the execution of Parliament Attack Case convict Afzal Guru, Chakma said the government must assuage the sentiments of his family members who had effectively been not informed about the impending execution on February 9.
“The State itself must not be flouting or circumventing the rules as it erodes the belief in the rule of law. Guru was hanged out of the queue and was denied the right to appeal against the rejection of mercy petition,” he said.
On the rejection of mercy pleas of four associates of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, the ACHR Director said in its attempt to address political fallout of the botched up execution of Afzal Guru the UPA government would carry out further executions of death row convicts.
“India as the land of Valmiki, Lord Buddha, Gandhi etc must follow its own civilisational values and take effective measures to join the countries which have abandoned retributive justice system and abolished death penalty,” Chakma said.
Death Penalty awarded during 2001-11
Tamil Nadu -95
West Bengal- 79
Death Penalty Commuted during 2001-11