India’s government told to review hanging as ‘most suitable’ method of execution

India’s government told to review hanging as ‘most suitable’ method of execution

India’s Supreme Court has asked the country’s federal government to consider the “most suitable” way of carrying out the death penalty.

Prisoners facing the death penalty are currently executed by hanging in India.

On Tuesday, a bench comprising India’s Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha asked the government to consider setting up an expert committee to relook how India executes its prisoners.

The court’s statements came while hearing a petition filed by advocate Rishi Malhotra, who sought to do away with death by hanging in favour of comparatively less painful methods like a lethal injection or electrocution.

“The sentence should be carried with a method which amounts to least amount of pain and avoids torture,” the counsel was quoted as saying by legal news portal LiveLaw.

Calling it a matter of “reflection”, Mr Chandrachud asked India’s attorney general R Venkataramani to provide details on whether there is any data or study undertaken regarding the impact and pain caused during death by hanging and whether it is the most suitable method available.

“Mr AG, come back to us and we should have better data before us on the impact of death by hanging, pain caused and the period taken for such death to take place, availability of resources to effectuate such hanging by death.

“And is today’s science suggesting that this is best method today or is there another method which is more suitable to uphold human dignity,” the court bench was quoted as saying by legal news portal Bar and Bench.

Urging the government to consider forming a committee to look into the best available methods including legal experts and doctors, the court said there is a need to re-examine whether “hanging is the best way” to execute death row convicts.

“One option would be that we have some better data before the court on what is the impact of death by hanging in terms of pain etc,” Mr Chandrachud was quoted as saying by LiveLaw.

“We can look at the matter from the point of view of technology and science - does today’s stage of knowledge says hanging is the best way? Third, do we have any data either in India or overseas regarding alternate methods. Or do we form a committee? We’re just thinking. We can have National Law Universities on the committee.

“We could have some doctors from AIIMS, some scientists, we could gather data.”

The matter has been posted for hearing on 2 May.

“We have to see if this method satisfies the test of proportionality or whether there is another method which can be adopted so that death by hanging can be declared as unconstitutional,” the bench said.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, more than 70 per cent of the world’s countries have abolished capital punishment in law or practice.

Amnesty International’s report in 2022 stated that at the end of 2021, 108 countries (and growing) had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes, 144 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice, 28 countries had effectively abolished the death penalty by not executing anyone in the past 10 years and 55 countries still retained the death penalty for ordinary crimes.

According to a study conducted by Project 39A of Delhi’s National Law University in January this year, titled “Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistics 2022”, trial courts in India sentenced 165 people to death in 2022, the highest in a year in the last two decades.