Death by hanging ‘not barbaric, inhuman or cruel,’ says Govt to Supreme Court

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NEW DELHI, APR 24,
Death by hanging is not as “barbaric, inhuman and cruel” as an execution by firing squad or lethal injection, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Tuesday, responding to a PIL challenging the constitutionality of hanging till death.
The government traced statistics of “botched-up” administration of lethal injections to condemned prisoners in the United States for 110 years to prove its point that this mode of State execution is only “designed to create an appearance of serenity and painless death.” Besides, the lethal chemical, if known to the public, would possibly be misused.
Likewise, the government graphically detailed the horrors of death by firing squad. How, if the shots miss the heart, the prisoners slowly bleeds to death. Besides, it would be very difficult to find volunteers for the firing squad from the country’s civilian police force.
The PIL was filed by advocate Rishi Malhotra challenging the constitutionality of hanging to death as a mode of execution. Section 354 (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure mandates that a person sentenced to death shall “be hanged by the neck till he is dead.”
“Hanging with more advanced procedures is far safer than techniques such as lethal injections… the procedure by which a death sentence is to be executed is dependent upon a variety of factors such as economic feasibility, availability of skilled and technical personnel, equipment and resources, rate of botched executions,” the counter-affidavit said.
The Centre said the mode of execution is a “matter of legislative policy.”
The government said the death penalty is awarded only in the rarest of rare cases. There have been only three execution between 2012 and 2015. The recent Law Commission of India recommendation to confine death penalty only to offences of terrorism and waging of war against the country is under examination.
The Supreme Court, in an earlier hearing, had said that a condemned convict should die in peace and not in pain. A human being is entitled to dignity even in death. Issuing notice in the PIL, the court had earlier asked the government to consider the the “dynamic progress” made in modern science to adopt painless methods of causing death.
But the court has already clarified that it is not questioning the constitutionality of death penalty, which has been well-settled by the apex court, including in Deena vs. Union of India and earlier in the Bachan Singh case reported in 1980.

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