Humanizing Execution Methods: Attorney General’s Letter to Centre
The issue of execution methods for death row convicts has been a subject of debate and concern in India. Attorney General R. Venkataramani has written to the Centre, proposing the formation of a committee of experts to examine the prevalent mode of execution, specifically hanging, which the Supreme Court has apprised today (25th July 2023), and the proposal aims to explore alternative and less painful methods of execution. This article delves into the background, recent developments, and the potential implications of such an examination.
Proposal for a Committee of Experts
Attorney General R. Venkataramani has expressed the need to investigate the current mode of execution of death row convicts in India, which involves hanging. The proposal involves setting up a committee of experts tasked with examining the various aspects and implications of this method. The Attorney General wrote a letter to the Centre seeking their cooperation in forming the panel and requesting their input on the matter. The Centre’s response and cooperation are crucial in this process.
Supreme Court’s Awareness
The matter of execution methods for death row convicts has been brought to the attention of the Supreme Court of India. A Bench presided over by Chief Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justices J. B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra were informed by senior advocate Sonia Mathur, representing the Centre, about the proposal for the committee of experts. The Court has been actively apprised of the developments related to this issue and holds the authority to make decisions that could impact the future of execution methods in the country.
Delay in the Hearing
During the proceedings, it was revealed that the Attorney General for India was unavailable due to travel commitments. This resulted in a request for the hearing to be deferred. Chief Justice D. Y. Chandrachud suggested fixing the hearing on a Friday, two weeks later, to accommodate the Attorney General’s schedule and proceed with the matter.
Previous Considerations by the Centre
Prior to this proposal, the Centre had already expressed its contemplation of setting up a committee of experts to investigate the prevalent mode of execution. The Attorney General stated that the process of appointing the committee members was still under consideration, and a definitive response would be given at a later time. The Centre’s active involvement in the process is essential for the successful formation and functioning of the committee.
The Supreme Court’s Interest in Better Data
In a previous ruling on March 21, the Supreme Court expressed its interest in gathering “better data” on the execution methods used for death row convicts in India. The Court acknowledged the need for an examination to determine whether hanging was a proportionate and less painful method of execution. This indicates the Court’s commitment to thoroughly investigating the matter and ensuring a just and humane approach to the issue.
A PIL Seeking Alternative Execution Methods
The call for exploring alternative methods of execution was initiated through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer Rishi Malhotra in 2017. The PIL sought to abolish the current practice of hanging death row convicts and replace it with less painful and more humane methods. Some of the alternatives suggested by Mr. Malhotra included intravenous lethal injection, shooting, electrocution, or gas chamber. The PIL highlights the need to protect the dignity of the convict, even in the face of execution.
Mr. Malhotra’s PIL also drew attention to international practices, where many countries have moved away from the practice of hanging death row convicts. He cited the example of thirty-six states in the United States, which have already abandoned hanging as a method of execution. This raises questions about whether India should consider adopting more humane methods, in line with global trends.
The proposal to form a committee of experts to examine the execution methods for death row convicts in India marks a significant step towards ensuring a just and humane approach to the matter. The Supreme Court’s interest in seeking better data and exploring alternatives demonstrates its commitment to addressing this sensitive issue. By considering the inputs of experts and the Centre’s cooperation, India can progress towards more humane and dignified methods of execution, while upholding justice and respecting the rights of the convicts.