Supreme Court Asks Centre to Think of Alternatives to Hanging for Death Row Convicts

The government should take into account the “dynamic progress” made in modern science to adopt painless methods of carrying out the death sentence, the chief justice-headed bench said.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today reportedly asked the Centre to respond to a plea challenging the legal provision that death row convicts will be hanged to death and come with more human ways to carry out the death sentence.

The plea said that Article 21 (right to life) of the constitution also includes the right of a condemned prisoner to a dignified mode of execution, so that death becomes less painful.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud issued a notice to the Centre and sought its response in three weeks on the PIL, which referred to the 187th Report of the Law Commission against the present mode of execution.

Lawyer Rishi Malhotra, who filed the PIL in his personal capacity, has also referred to various apex court judgements in which the practice of hanging a death row convict has been assailed.

A provision in the Criminal Procedure Code provides that the mode of execution under the death penalty will be hanging by the neck. The plea also challenges the constitutional validity of this provision.

According to a report in The Hindu, the judges said that the condemned should die in peace and not in pain. The government should take into account the “dynamic progress” made in modern science to adopt painless methods of carrying out the death sentence, they continued. “Legislature can think of some other means by which a convict, who under law has to face death sentence, should die in peace and not in pain. It has been said since centuries that nothing can be equated with painless death,” the newspaper quoted Misra as saying in the order.

Thirty-four years ago, the apex court had held up the validity of hanging death row convicts and refused to strike down Section 354(5) of the CrPC, Hindustan Times reported. The bench today said it was conscious of the 1984 judgement upholding the law, but added that the constitution has evolved over time.  “The Constitution of India being an organisation and compassionate constitution recognises sanctity of flexibility,” the court said.

(With PTI inputs)

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