In April, India passed a law permitting the death penalty for rape of a child under 12, reigniting an international debate over capital punishment.
In India, only four people have been executed in the past 13 years. Three of those executed were convicted of terrorism and one for rape of a minor, Chaitanya Mallapur reported for the Business Standard News.
Of the 109 prisoners sentenced to death in 2017, 43 people (39 percent) were sentenced to death for murder involving sexual violence. Now, India is the 14th country to introduce capital punishment for child rape without an additional murder charge. Despite this law change, the use of capital punishment remains a contentious issue worldwide.
“Execution kills the criminal, not the crime,” said Ap Singh, a lawyer for two of the convicts set for execution in India. “How can judiciary decide as to who should live and who should die?”
India faces long delays in its trial process. Even after being sentenced, prisoners face years on death row before they are executed.
It takes so long to execute a prisoner because the conviction is sent to the High Court for confirmation. Then, after the High Court confirms the verdict, it can be appealed to the Supreme Court. A prisoner can also file mercy petitions with the governor and the president.
According to the Law Commission of India 2015 report on the death penalty death row prisoners continue to face long delays in trials, appeals and thereafter in clemency. The report states that during this time, the prisoners on death row suffer from extreme agony, anxiety and fear arising out of imminent yet uncertain timing of their executions.
Human rights groups and the United Nations argue that the death sentence is inhumane and cruel, Mallapur reports. The primary argument in favor is that it deters people from committing crimes in the first place. Many, including India’s Law Commission, disagree, saying that the threat of capital punishment doesn’t stop criminals from committing crimes.