President Mukherjee rejects 97% of mercy pleas as India gives two death sentences each day
New Delhi: Asian Centre for Human Rights in its report, “India: Death Penalty Has No Deterrence”, stated that President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected 97% of the mercy petitions since assuming the office of the President of India on 25 July 2012 despite no deterrent effect of death penalty. President Mukherjee has considered 23 mercy pleas involving 31 death-row convicts out of which only one convict, Atbir was granted mercy as on August 2014.

Analysing the data of the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), Asian Centre for Human Rights stated, “From 2001 to 2012, death sentence of 1,552 convicts were confirmed while the death sentences for 4,382 convicts were commuted to life imprisonment. This implies that a total of 5,934 convicts were given death sentence in the last 12 years in India i.e. about two convicts being given death sentence every working day of the judiciary”.

“The empirical evidence of the Government of India, however, establishes that death penalty does not act as deterrent.” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

Death penalty is awarded mostly in cases of murder. Despite executions of an average of 128 death row convicts per year from 1953 to 1963 as per the 35th Report of the Law Commission, the decadal increase of murder cases during the same period as per the NCRB was about 17%. Obviously, executions had not acted as a deterrent. Rather, drastic reduction in executions in the post Bachan Singh judgement period drastically brought down murder cases. As per the NCRB which started collecting statistics on death penalty from 1995, the decadal decrease of murder cases during 1992 to 2002 was 12.43% in actual term despite decadal growth rate of India’s population by 21.34% from 846.3 million in 1991 to 1.028 billion in 2001. Similarly, the decadal decrease of murder cases during 2002-2012 was 1.99% in actual term despite increase of India’s population from 1.028 billion in 2001 to 1.21 billion in 2011.

Though no convict under anti-terror laws from Jammu and Kashmir has been executed from 1990 till the hanging of Afzal Guru in 2013, Jammu and Kashmir had recorded decadal reduction of 70% incidents of terrorist violence and 61.66% reduction in killings during the period 2003-2012 as against the period 1993-2002. Terror incidents declined from 5,247 incidents in 1993 to 220 incidents in 2012. The number of persons killed also declined from 2,255 persons in 1993 to 102 persons in 2012. Further, decadal terror incidents of about 43,085 incidents with 26,285 deaths in Jammu and Kashmir during 1993 to 2002 were reduced to 12,970 incidents with 10,076 deaths during 2003-2012.

Even inclusion of death penalty for repeat offenders of rape under Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code following the Nirbhaya gang rape incident in Delhi has not reduced non-homicidal offences such as rape. On 4 April 2014, a Sessions Court in Mumbai, Maharashtra became the first in the country to impose death penalty to three repeat offenders of rape under the new Section 376E of the IPC in the infamous Shakti Mill rape case. However, the statistics provided by Mumbai Police showed that 135 rape cases were reported from April to 15 June 2014 i.e. about 2 rape cases daily. Similarly, the award of death penalty to four adult accused found guilty of rape and murder of Nirbhaya by a fast track court in September 2013 failed to act as a deterrent. According to data released by the Delhi Police, 616 rape cases were registered in Delhi from 1 January 2014 to 30 April 2014 i.e. six cases were reported every day. This is an increase of 36% compared to around 450 cases registered in the same period in 2013.

With the exception of the Central Reserve Police Force Act, death penalty is provided in all the legislations establishing the Army, Air Force, Navy and the central para-military forces for a number of military offences such as in relation to the enemy or terrorist, mutiny, desertion and aiding desertion and other offences such as murder including fratricide. The Ministry of Defence stated that 83 cases of fratricide were reported from the armed forces from 2000 to 2012. Though the CRPF Act does not provide death penalty, maximum number of fratricide killings among the para-military forces of 18 incidents, were reported from the CPRF.

“Though death penalty does not act as a deterrent, the Government of India continues to mislead the people about its effectiveness. Death penalty can never be a substitute to prevention, effective and prompt investigation and speedy justice delivery system against crimes on which the Government of India has failed”. – further stated Mr Chakma.

Asian Centre for Human Rights called upon the Government of India to amend all the laws that provide death penalty and replace the same with punishment for life imprisonment i.e. imprisonment for the whole of the remaining period of the convicted person’s natural life.