Death Penalty India

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Lethal Lottery The Death Penalty in IndiaA study of Supreme Court judgments in death penalty cases 1950-2006

Amnesty International India and Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (Tamil Nadu & Puducherry) May 2008

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis report has been researched and written by Bikram Jeet Batra, consultant to Amnesty International India. Part I was written by Dr. V. Suresh and D. Nagasaila, PUCL-TN&P. The report was edited and finalised by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International. Monica Vincent and Anita Abraham were previous consultants on this project. Nithya V. Raman and Cyble Soans assisted with the cases database while Devmani Upadhyay assisted with statistical analysis. A number of interns and volunteers worked on the collection and initial analysis of cases: Aditi Malik, Ajai Krishnan, Mohammad Amanullah, Ankur Singla, Ayesha Sen Choudhury, Ashirbani Dutta, Benji Zeitlyn, Dhananjaya Chak, Jhuma Sen, Kumarpal Chopra, Joel D'Silva, Lorraine Misquith, Mitasha Chandok, Neha Bhat, Neha Nanchal, Neha Sachdev, Rahul Mathur, Rakhi K., Richa Mehra, Sanat Kapoor, Saptarshi Chakraborty, Shabeena Anjum and Veronica V. Dr. S. Muralidhar, Dr. Usha Ramanathan and Vrinda Grover contributed to the initial conceptualization of the report.

Acknowledgement from PUCL-Tamil Nadu & PuducherryThis Report is the product of the collaboration between PUCLTamil Nadu and Puducherry and Amnesty International and reflects the culmination of a need much felt by anti-death penalty activists. The anti-capital punishment movement in India got regalvanisedin 1995 in the wake of the wholesale sentencing by the trial court of all the 26 accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination

case to death sentence. In the years immediately thereafter, a number of imminent executions of death sentences had to be stopped by PUCL. As the battles raged inside and out of courts, the absence of a detailed study was acutely felt. In response to the persistent questions in the law courts and from policy makers, PUCL-Tamil Nadu & Puducherry decided to embark on a study on Death Penalty. Very soon it became apparent that the absence of definite data was a major limitation to a multi-dimensional study. In the end it was decided to launch a study to critically analyse Supreme Court pronouncements on death penalty cases from the inception of the apex court in 1950 till date. The initial conceptualization and creation of analytical framework for study of the case laws was done by PUCL-TN following numerous meetings and brainstorming sessions. Thereafter when Amnesty International India office initiated a similar study, the collated material was shared with AI to continue the study. Several batches of law students from the National Law School and other law schools were involved with the initial phases of the study. Though the list of students and activists who contributed is too long to enumerate, the contributions of four then-students (and now important professionals in their own right) Gopalakrishna Shenoy, Pradeep Nayak, Prashanth Venkatesh and Shailesh Rai in particular needs, to be recorded. K.G. Kannabiran, National President PUCL, not only encouraged but also helped to guide the study. It is a matter of immense satisfaction that the study has been completed and the report is finally being released. Dr. V. Suresh, President, PUCL-TN/Puducherry March 2008

CONTENTSPREFACE.............................................................................................................................7 PART I. The Need to Re-examine the Death Penalty in India..111. 2. 3. 4. 5. A global move towards abolition..................................................................12 The Indian legislature and abolition of the death penalty........................15 The Constitutional challenge to the death penalty.....................................21 The Supreme Court as guardian of justice...................................................26 'Junking the Machinery of Death' - In conclusion.......................................31 A Study of Supreme Court Judgments 1950 - 2006..................................35

PART II. The Judicial Award of the Death Penalty in India:1. Introduction...........................................................................................................351.1 The parameters of the present study and its methodology......................39 1.2 Relevant law and procedure..........................................................................40 1.2.1 Special legislations providing for the death penalty........................44 1.2.2 Three possible stages of judicial process in death penalty cases....45 1.2.3 The process of appeal............................................................................46 1.2.4 On Commutations and Clemency.......................................................48 The award of the death penalty in India: sentencing policy..............50 2.1 The Amending Act XXVI (1956 - 1975).........................................................51 2.1.1 The inter-regnum: old & new Codes of Criminal Procedure (1974 - 75)...........................................................58 2.2 The new Code of Criminal Procedure (1975 - 2006)..................................61 2.2.1 Battles on the Bench..............................................................................64 2.3 'Rarest of Rare' (1980 - present)......................................................................72 2.3.1 Applying, ignoring, misunderstanding the 'rarest of rare' test..................................................................................77 2.3.2 Lip service to Bachan Singh.................................................................81 2.3.3 'Social Necessity' and 'Cry for Justice': The fading impact of the Bachan Singh test......................................84 2.3.4. The current situation: 'rarest of rare' lost in translation..................90 Factors affecting sentencing and review of sentencing.......................91 3.1 Gender-based violence...................................................................................91 3.1.1 Dowry Murders.....................................................................................91 3.1.2 Rape and Murder Cases.......................................................................94 3.1.3 Infidelity and Jealousy..........................................................................99 3.2 The issue of age in sentencing.....................................................................101 3.2.1 Juvenile offenders................................................................................103 3.3 The possibility of reform and rehabilitation of offenders.......................108 3.4 Mental Health................................................................................................110 3.5 Other Factors..................................................................................................117 Caste................................................................................................................117 Religion...........................................................................................................118 Politics.............................................................................................................119

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Delay: A ground for commutation?...........................................................1214.1 4.2

The current legal position...........................................................................125 'Death row cruel and inhuman punishment?'........................................132 5. Mandatory death sentences..........................................................................137 5.1 Section 303, Indian Penal Code..................................................................148 5.2 The current legal position on mandatory death sentences....................141 6. Concerns about the judicial process...........................................................145 6.1 Evidence........................................................................................................148 6.1.1 Concerns about pre-trial investigations/collection of evidence.............................................148 6.1.2 Differing appreciation of evidence..................................................158 6.1.3 Errors in appreciation of evidence...................................................161 6.2 Sentencing.....................................................................................................166 6.2.1. Ignoring the mandatory pre-sentencing hearing..........................166 6.2.2. Improper Enhancement of Sentence...............................................170 6.2.3 Death sentences awarded upon reversal of acquittal...................174 6.2.4 Mistakes in Law and Sentencing.....................................................183 6.2.5 Non-unanimous/ majority decisions..............................................186 6.3 Confirmation and appeal............................................................................194 6.3.1 Shoddy and Casual Adjudication....................................................194 6.4 Judicial bias...................................................................................................197 7. Additional concerns about the fairness of trials....................................203 7.1 Legal Representation...................................................................................203 7.1.1 Adequate legal representation.........................................................208 7.1.2 Legal Aid at all stages........................................................................213 7.2 The right to appeal the absence of automatic appeal to the Supreme Court..............................................................