SC Bench seeks data on alternatives to hanging

Source: The post is based on the article “SC Bench seeks data on alternatives to hangingpublished in The Hindu on 22nd March 2023

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to provide data which may point to less painful, more dignified and socially acceptable methods of executing prisoners other than death by hanging.

What was the case about?

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of death by hanging 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”.

The petitioner said there is a need to evolve a “humane, quick and decent alternative”. The petitioner also termed hanging as “cruel and barbarous” compared to lethal injection as used in the United States.

Note: In the landmark 1982 ruling in ‘Bachan Singh v State of Punjab’, a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the death sentence by a 4:1 majority ruling.

What is the Centre’s stand on death by hanging?

In its 2018 affidavit, the government argued that death by hanging was the only “viable” option to execute a death warrant. However, the government also sought additional time to examine the methods followed in other countries.

Law Commission of India in 2003 recommended that Section 354(5) of the CrPC should be amended by providing an alternative mode of execution of the death sentence by “lethal injection until the accused is dead”.

– The report suggested that it should be the discretion of the judge to pass appropriate orders regarding the mode of execution of the death sentence and to hear the convict on the question of the mode of execution of the death sentence before passing the discretionary order.

What is the practice in other countries?

According to Amnesty International, 55 countries around the world have the death sentence on the books. While death by hanging is still the most prevalent form of execution, especially in the former British colonies, other modes are followed in some countries.

In the United States, for example, an intravenous lethal injection is given in every state (27 states and American Samoa) that allows the death penalty.Electrocution is a secondary method in some states. 

Execution by firing squad is employed in China and Saudi Arabia uses beheading apart from other methods.

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