As Tihar gears up, the mechanics of a hanging in India
On December 16, 2012, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Mukesh Singh, Ram Singh, and a 17-year-old assaulted and gang raped the 23-year-old.Updated: Dec 12, 2019 12:22 IST
Tihar jail officers have started preparations to execute the four men convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus in south Delhi’s Munirka seven years back.
On December 16, 2012, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Mukesh Singh, Ram Singh, and a 17-year-old assaulted and gang raped the 23-year-old. The young woman succumed to her injuries at a hospital in Singapore later. The case triggered protests across the country and prompted the government to set up a fast track court and bring new laws to curb crimes against women.
Singh was found hanging in March 2013 when a city court was hearing the case. The juvenile was convicted and let off in December 2015 after serving time at a children’s correctional facility. The remaining four convicts have been on death row in Delhi’s Tihar jail after Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s order sentencing them to death in 2017.
On October 27, the prison authorities wrote to the four convicts reminding them that they had exhausted all their legal options and that if they did not file a mercy petition within a week, the department would proceed with the execution process. Only Thakur filed the mercy plea. Delhi home minister Satyendar Jain and Delhi’s lieutenant governor recommended the petition be dismissed and forwarded the file to the President’s office. Sharma has withdrawn his petition. The government is yet to comment on the date or timing of the hangings but Tihar is gearing up for them.
Here are five things about capital punishment in India:
1) The last hanging in India was of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in 2013. Guru was hanged within a week after the then President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition. The apex court has now made it mandatory to give convicts 14 days between the day of President rejecting a mercy petition and hanging. The convicts get time to fulfil their last wishes, meet family members and write their will.
2) The government never disclosed who hanged Afzal Guru. Unlike previous cases of hanging in Tihar, the government did take services of a hangman. One of the prison officers reportedly volunteered to do the job. Jail officers say a hangman in not needed.
3) In the present case, the prison authorities have received at least 15 letters from citizens who have volunteered to hang the four convicts of the December 16, 2012, Delhi gang rape case. There are two letters from London (United Kingdom) and the US too. Prison officers say the number of letters will increase.
4) Only a specific type of ropes called Manila made by prisoners of Buxar jail is used in the hangings. The ropes must not cut the neck of a convict upon execution. The ropemakers believe that the Ganga near the jail in Buxar gives the right amount of humidity that the ropes need for the hanging.
5) A convict has to be mentally sound at the time of hanging. Davinder Bhullar, a convict in the 1993 Delhi blasts, was on death row for over a decade. But in 2014, his sentence was reduced to life imprisonment after courts found that the man had become mentally ill after years of living on death row.
Over the weekend, one of the Delhi gang rape convicts, Pawan Gupta, was also shifted to Tihar from Mandoli jail.
The Tihar jail, which has 12 prisoners on death row at the moment, does not have an official hangman. In the past, the jail has used the services of a hangman from a Meerut jail.
PLACE OF HANGING
A small courtyard in jail number 3 inside Tihar, guarded round-the-clock, will be the place where the four convicts of the Delhi gang rape case — Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, and Mukesh Singh — will be hanged. Many jail officers, who did not wish to be identified, said that the ‘phansi-kotha’ is also the place where the bodies of two former prisoners — Kashmiri separatist leader Maqbool Bhat and Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru — are buried.
“No one is allowed inside the ‘phansi-kotha’. It is a separate section inside a high-security ward, which has a few high-security prisoners. The ward is guarded round the clock by personnel of Tamil Nadu State police (TSP). Except, the TSP guards, warders — who give food to the prisoners — and the prisoners themselves, nobody enters this ward. The ‘phansi-kotha’ is an extremely restricted area,” said a prison officer.
The ‘phansi–kotha’ is only opened a few times in a year, when the jail officers clean the place.
The activities of the four Delhi rape convicts are currently monitored round-the-clock by jail warders and other inmates. Jail officers said the four men appear to be behaving normally and have not shown any abnormal signs yet. “We are not keeping them in isolation. Their activities are being monitored round-the-clock. Their health is also fine so far. On the day of the hanging, their health will be monitored by a doctor,” another officer said. One of the accused persons, Ram Singh, was found hanging in prison in March 2013. Singh died in prison before the court had announced its verdict in the case.