President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected 97% of the mercy petitions since assuming the top office in 2012, a human rights watch group has said, stressing that death penalty has failed to act as a deterrent in the country.
Mukherjee, who assumed office on July 25, 2012, considered 23 mercy pleas involving 31 death-row convicts out of which only one was granted mercy as on August 31, 2014, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) said in its report titled 'India: Death penalty has no deterrence'.
The Delhi-based ACHR is a non-governmental organisation engaged in protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Asian region.
Mukherjee's decisions are in sharp contrast to those of his predecessor Pratibha Patil, who granted a record 30 pardons, over 90 per cent of India's total death sentences pardoned ever. She rejected only two mercy pleas during her tenure.
Mostly awarded in murder cases, death penalty is now also given to repeat offenders in rape cases.
ACHR Director Suhas Chakma, however, said that high number of death penalty has not brought down crime rate.
"The empirical evidence of the government of India, however, establishes that death penalty does not act as deterrent," said Chakma, who is also coordinator of the national campaign for abolition of death penalty in India.
The ACHR said the government should "amend all the laws that provide death penalty" and replace the same with life imprisonment.
Citing National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) data, the ACHR report stated that from 2001 to 2012, death sentence of 1,552 convicts were confirmed while the death sentences for 4,382 convicts were commuted to life imprisonment.
"Death penalty can never be a substitute to prevention, effective and prompt investigation and speedy justice delivery system against crimes on which the government of India has failed," Chakma said.
On the contrary, the report said, there was a drastic fall in murder cases following a considerable reduction in executions since 1982 when the Supreme Court propounded the "rarest of the rare doctrine" for awarding death penalty.
Even inclusion of death penalty for repeat offenders of rape has not reduced non-homicidal offences such as rape, the report added.
On April 4, 2014, a sessions court in Mumbai became the first in the country to impose death penalty on three repeat offenders of rape under the new Section 376E of the IPC in the infamous Shakti Mill rape case.
However, statistics provided by Mumbai police showed that 135 rape cases were reported from April to 15 June 2014 i.e., about 2 rape cases daily, the report said.
Similarly, the award of death penalty to four adult accused found guilty of rape and murder in the Delhi gang-rape and murder too failed to act as a deterrent.
According to Delhi police data, 616 rape cases were registered in Delhi from January 1, 2014 to April 30, 2014, an average of six cases per day.