Centre plans panel to find alternative to death by hanging

Lawyer Rishi Malhotra had filed a PIL in 2017 seeking to abolish the present practice of executing a death row convict by hanging and replace it with less painful methods

May 02, 2023 12:02 pm | Updated May 03, 2023 12:44 am IST - New Delhi

Image for representation purpose only.

Image for representation purpose only.

The government apprised the Supreme Court on May 2 that it is considering the formation of a committee to examine the need for a painless and more dignified alternative to death by hanging.

Appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, Attorney General R. Venkataramani sought time till July to report back to the Supreme Court.

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In March, the court had asked the government to provide data which may give a clue to a more acceptable method of executing prisoners other than death by hanging.

The Chief Justice had in that hearing suggested to the government the formation of a committee with experts from the national law universities, professors of law, doctors and scientific persons.

The court had indicated to the Centre that it may even direct an alternative method of executing capital punishments if it was proved that there was a more “humane” method of execution which would render death by hanging unconstitutional.

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“If you want us to relook death by hanging, we need better data… We want to know the impact of the sentence of death by hanging, the pain caused, the period of actual death and the availability of resources for hanging a person,” Chief Justice Chandrachud had observed.

Also Read | Psychological test of death row convicts is essential, says Supreme Court

The court was hearing a petition filed by advocate Rishi Malhotra challenging the constitutionality of death by hanging as a mode of execution. Section 354 (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure mandates that a person sentenced to death shall “be hanged by the neck till he is dead”.

Mr. Malhotra said there was a need to evolve a “humane, quick and decent alternative”. He termed hanging as “cruel and barbarous” way of executing a prisoner.

In fact, in 2018, the Centre had filed an affidavit supporting death by hanging. It had not found the method of execution “barbaric, inhuman and cruel” compared to firing squads and lethal injections.

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