Days after the execution of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, President Pranab Mukherjee rejected the mercy petitions of four associates of slain forest brigand Veerappan, who were given a death sentence in a landmine blast case.
In the last seven months, the President has ordered death penalty for seven convicts including that of 26/11 gunman Ajmal Kasab and double murderer S Ningappa.
The National Crimes Record Bureau has interesting statistics on death penalties in India. In the last 10 years, 1455 persons were awarded death sentences -- an average of 133 every year.
Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 370 death penalties awarded in ten years while Bihar and Maharashtra follow with 132 and 125 respectively. In Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, 95 convicts were given a death sentence. The other states with a high number of death penalties include Madhya Pradesh (87), West Bengal (79), Delhi (71), Gujarat (57), Rajasthan (38), Kerala (34), Orissa (22) and Haryana (31).
Fewer death sentences were awarded in Punjab (19), Chhattisgarh (18), Uttaranchal (16), Andhra Pradesh (8), Meghalaya (6), Chandigarh and Daman and Diu (4 each), Manipur and Himachal Pradesh (3 each), Tripura and Pondichery (2 each) and Goa (1). Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakswadweep have not registered a single case of death sentence.
The NCRB statistics also reveal that in the past ten years, the death sentences of 4,321 convicts were commuted to life by various courts. This list has Delhi at the top with 2,462 such cases while Uttar Pradesh and Bihar come second and third with 458 and 343 cases respectively. The statistics in terms of other states are Jharkhand (300), Maharashtra (175), West Bengal (98), Assam (97), Odisha (68), Madhya Pradesh (62), Uttaranchal (46), Rajasthan (33), Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Chhattisgarh (24 each), Haryana and Kerala (23 each), Jammu and Kashmir (18).
Many rights groups have condemned death penalty. The Asian Centre for Human Rights says that the execution of Nathuram Vinayak Godse for the assassination Mahatma Gandhi has not acted as a deterrent against assassination. Many prominent political leaders including former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, Member of Parliament Lalit Maken have met the same fate.
There is no scientific or empirical basis to suggest that death penalty acts as a deterrent against any crime.
On the execution of Afzal Guru, the Asian Centre for Human Rights stated that India must assuage the sentiments of his family members who had effectively not been informed about the impending hanging on February 9.
The State itself must not be flouting or circumventing the rules as it erodes the belief in the rule of law. Guru was hanged out of queue and was denied the right to appeal against the rejection of the mercy petition.
The interventions of the Supreme Court against rejection of mercy petition of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar (convicted for bomb blasts at Youth Congress office), of the Guwahati high court against rejection of mercy petition of double murder convict Mahendra Nath Das and of the Madras HC against rejection of pleas of Rajiv Gandhi assassins Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan have established that this opportunity to appeal has been denied to Guru.
On the rejection of mercy petitions of Veerappan aides Gnanprakasham, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran, who were sentenced to death by the SC in connection with the killing of 21 policemen in a landmine blast at Palar in Karnataka in 1993, the rights group says that the Government of India in its attempt to address the political fallout of the botched up execution of Guru and the expressed position of the United Progressive Alliance government on death penalty in certain cases will carry out further executions of death row convicts not connected with political sensitivities.