Establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition, says AI official

Amnesty International India has described as “shameful” the Union government’s action of carrying out death sentences. “This government has executed more people since November 2012 (Ajmal Kasab, Afzal Guru) than in the previous 10 years. To continue such a regressive trend would be truly shameful,” it said.

Referring to reports that President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected the mercy petitions of four accomplices of forest brigand Veerappan — Gnanprakasham (brother of Veerappan), Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran — who were convicted for their role in the landmine blast that killed 22 police personnel in Karnataka’s Palar area in 1993, Amnesty India’s Chief Executive G. Ananthapadmanabhan said India must immediately halt the impending executions of the four.

They were originally sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court in Karnataka set up under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, but the Supreme Court increased, upon appeal, their sentences to death penalty in 2004. The four filed mercy petitions that year.

The Supreme Court, in a different case, had said that inordinate delay in deciding on mercy petitions could be a ground for commutation of death sentence.

Trials under the TADA did not uphold international fair trial standards; provisions of the TADA were also grossly abused in India to facilitate further human rights violations. The TADA was repealed in 1995.

Since November 2012, Indian authorities have not consistently made all the information about rejection of mercy petitions and dates of execution available to the public prior to the sentences being carried out.

“This new practice of executing in secret without prior notification to relatives is deeply worrying. We urge the Indian government to immediately establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition,” Mr. Ananthapadmanabhan said.

‘Death sentence routine’

Meanwhile, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) Director Suhas Chakma alleged that as many as 1,455 persons were sentenced to death in India during 2001-2011 — Uttar Pradesh topping the list with 370 accused convicted to enter the gallows. This was followed by Bihar — 132 and Maharashtra — 125.

He said “this implies that on an 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”.