March 24, 2023

Why Indians on death row has hit a record high | India News – Times of India

India’s death row population shot up to 488 in 2021 with fewer appeal hearings in a pandemic-stalled year. This was a 21% rise over the previous year’s count of 404, a new report by the National Law University‘s Project 39A said on Monday.
“When compared with data from the … National Crime Records Bureau, this is the highest the death row population has been since 2004, when it was 563,” the ‘Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistics Report 2021’ said.

The report put it down to two things – the number of death sentences by trial courts shot up (from 78 in 2020 to 144 in 2021) while higher courts were able to take up fewer appeals over the past two years (the Supreme Court, for instance, listed six death sentence cases in 2021, down from 28 in 2019).
“The limited functioning of appellate courts in both 2020 and 2021 meant fewer appeals of prisoners sentenced to death being decided, and a far greater number of prisoners remaining on death row at the end of the year,” the report said.
Unlike in 2020 and 2019, the number of people sentenced to death for murder with intention to kill (as opposed to accidental murders) was higher (62 of 144) than those awarded death for sexual offences (48) by trial courts.
But this had to do with the number of people convicted in each case.
Overall, the number of sexual offence cases for which the death penalty was given out (45) remained the highest, much more than the number of murder cases (34) that led to capital punishment sentences.

The year 2021 was the first time in six years that a trial court imposed the death penalty for dealing in spurious liquor — nine prisoners were sentenced to death under the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 1946 in a case which claimed 19 lives and caused six others to lose their eyesight. The Act was amended in 2016 to add the capital punishment provision but it had not been imposed so far.
But while sessions courts went back to handing out death sentences in large numbers, the Supreme Court did not confirm a single death sentence for the first time since 2016. In fact, four death row convicts were acquitted of all charges.

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