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561 inmates on death row in India, highest in 20 years: Report

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NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 11: This year marked the highest number of prisoners sent to death row in nearly 20 years, with 561 prisoners, a report has revealed. As per the report, there has been a 45.71% increase in the population of inmates sent to death row since 2015.
“In 2023, 120 death sentences were imposed by trial courts across the country and 561 prisoners were living on death row at the end of the year”, a report – ‘Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistics Report’, published by Project 39A said.
“This marks the largest death row population in nearly 2 decades. Only 1 death sentence was confirmed in 2023, making it the year with the lowest rate of death sentence confirmations by the appellate courts since 2000. The year 2023 also witnesses a 45.71% increase in the death row population since 2015,” the report stated.
Project 39A is a criminal justice research and legal aid programme at the National Law University in Delhi, and is inspired by Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution, which promotes equal justice and equal opportunity by removing economic and social barriers.
The report, which is the 8th Edition by the publisher, also revealed that in 2023, trial courts across the country imposed 120 death sentences with the highest number of sentences from Uttar Pradesh i.e. 33 followed by 12 in Jharkhand and 11 each in Gujarat, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh and 10 in West Bengal.
“Uttar Pradesh had the largest death row population at 119 prisoners. The highest number of trial courts death sentences in 2023 was imposed in murder cases involving sexual offences, which is 64 (53.33%) out of 120 death sentences. This has been a rising trend in trial courts since our first annual statistics report in 2016”, the report said.
The report however noted that the rate of disposal of death penalty confirmation proceedings at the High Court in 2023 had seen a decrease of 15% in prisoners since the previous year.
“From the 57 cases decided by the High Courts involving 80 prisoners, 1 prisoner had their death sentence confirmed and 36 prisoners saw their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. 36 prisoners were acquitted of all charges and 5 had their cases sent back for re-trial to trial courts due to procedural errors concerning examination of witnesses and fair trial violations in the original trials”, the report read.
The report highlighted that the Supreme Court did not confirm any death sentences in 2023 while deciding 10 cases involving 11 prisoners and acquitted 6 prisoners who were on death row, criticizing the quality of evidence and police investigation.
The report also mentioned that the President of India rejected 1 mercy petition in March 2023 in a case of kidnapping, rape and murder of a minor in 2008. There are a total of 488 death row prisoners awaiting judgment from the High Courts, it said.
According to the report, 541 and 490 inmates were on death row at the end of 2022 and 2021, respectively, and 167 and 146 death sentences were awarded in 2022 and 2021. The report said the death row population has increased over the years and in 2023, the most.
(Courtesy: HT)

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