At least 720 executions in India since Independence
New Delhi, Mar 20: India has carried out at least 720 executions since Independence, nearly half of them in Uttar Pradesh, according to data collated under a project of the National Law University here.
The actual number could be much higher, a project official said, as there are no proper records maintained by the government on executions.
Before Friday morning's hanging of four Nirbhaya case convicts in Delhi's Tihar Jail, Yakub Menon was the last person to be sent to the gallows in July, 2015.
According to the Project 39A data, 354 executions were carried out in Uttar Pradesh since Independence, followed by 90 in Haryana, 73 in Madhya Pradesh, 57 in Maharashtra, 36 in Karnataka, 30 in West Bengal, 27 in Andhra Pradesh, 24 in Delhi, and 10 in Punjab.
Eight deaths by execution were recorded in Rajasthan, five each in Odisha and Jammu and Kashmir, and one in Goa, it added.
Executive Director of Project 39A Anup Surendranath said the figures gathered by them are based on records shared by states under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, while the actual number could be much higher.
'Collecting data on executions is difficult as there are no proper records maintained by the government. Our data is based on information procured through RTIs and the actual number could be in thousands but we do not have any record for that,' he said.
He said the evidence of this mismatch between the records that governments have and the actual numbers lies in a 1967 Law Commission of India report on the death penalty.
'That report recorded we had executed nearly 1,500 people by then but as you can see now, governments seem to have a record of only about 720 executions. It shows how callous we can be with the state taking human life,' added the Executive Director of Project 39A.
In February 2013, Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged.
In 2004, rape convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed after a period of about 7 years since the last execution.
After 2004, India had an unofficial moratorium in executions for eight years, until Kasab was executed in November 2012, according to the Law Commission.
In its 2015 report, the Law Commission concluded that the death penalty does not serve the penological goal of deterrence any more than life imprisonment.
'Further, life imprisonment under Indian law means imprisonment for the whole of life subject to just remissions which, in many states in cases of serious crimes, are granted only after many years of imprisonment which range from 30-60 years,' it stated.
'Retribution has an important role to play in punishment. However, it cannot be reduced to vengeance. The notion of 'an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' has no place in our constitutionally mediated criminal justice system. Capital punishment fails to achieve any constitutionally valid penological goals,' the commission said.
Based on its conclusion, the Commission had recommended that measures which include provisions for police reforms, witness protection scheme and victim compensation scheme should be taken up expeditiously by the government.
'Although there is no valid penological justification for treating terrorism differently from other crimes, concern is often raised that abolition of death penalty for terrorism related offences and waging war, will affect national security,' the commission said.
'However, given the concerns raised by the law makers, the commission does not see any reason to wait any longer to take the first step towards abolition of the death penalty for all offences other than terrorism related offences,' it stated.
'The Commission accordingly recommends that the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism related offences and waging war,' it added.
Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31), convicted for the 2012 gang rape and murder of the 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, who later came to be known as 'Nirbhaya', were hanged at 5.30 am inside Delhi's Tihar Jail.