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Report No. 35

Topic Number 58(b)

Replies to question 12

1101. Method of execution.-

Question No. 12 in our Questionnaire was as follows:-

"At present, the sentence of death is carried out by hanging. Have you any suggestions to make with respect to the manner in which a sentence of death may be carried out?"

Divergent views have been expressed as to the method of execution. A broad classification of these views is presented below.

1102. (1) The first group comprises those who would like to replace hanging by electrocution.

A large number of replies belong to this group1-10.

1. A High Court, S. No. 167; Chief Justice of a High Court and a Judge of that High Court; S. No. 130; Majority of the Judges of a High Court, S. No. 187.

2. A State; S. No. 143; Government of a Union territory S. No. 164.

3. A State Law Commission (Electrocution or gas-chamber), S. No. 101.

4. A Deputy Minister in the Union, S. No. 210; Member of the Rajya Sabha, S. No. 2075, Revenue Minister of a State, S. No. 216; M.L.As., S. Nos. 102 and 213.

5. Senior Deputy Advocate-General of a State, S. No. 146; Inspector-General of Police in a State, S. No. 131.

6. S. No. 139, S. No. 122, S. No. 117.

7. Bar Councils, S. Nos. 159, 115 and 116.

8. A District Bar Association, S. No. 125.

9. An eminent member of the Bar, A Member of a Bar Council, S. No, 104.

10. A cross-section of Delhi citizens (Hindustan Times), S. No. 89.

1103. The Chief Justice of a High Court1 is in favour of electrocution, provided facilities can be provided.

1. S. No. 316.

1104. Some High Court Judges are in favour of electrocution1.

1. S. No. 394.

1105. A High Court Judge1 has stated that modem methods, such as electrocution, should be followed.

1. S. No. 262.

1106. The Chief Minister of a State1 is in favour of electrocution. So also is the Home Minister of a State2. A Minister of another State is in favour of electrocution.3

1. S. No. 255.

2. S. No. 258.

3. S. No. 221.

1107. The Law Minister of a State1 is of the view that the sentence of death may be carried out by some method which is more instantaneous, like electrocution, than by hanging whenever possible.

1. S. No. 313.

1108. The Administration of a Union territory1 is of the view that electrocution may be a better way.

S. No. 303.

1109. A Member of Parliament1 has suggested that electrocution may take time, but a beginning may be made with one chair in each State at least in bigger States. Another Member of Parliament is in favour of electrocution2.

1. S. No. 273.

2. S. No. 224.

1110. Some Members of State Legislatures are in favour of electrocution1.

1. S. Nos. 225, 243, 244.

1111. The Principal Judge of a City Civil Court1 is of the view that hanging is rather crude, and electrocution should be substituted.

1. S. No. 434.

1112. Certain City Civil Court Judges have suggested electrocution1.

1. S. Nos. 376, 377, 379 and 381.

1113. A Judge of City Civil Court has suggested1 that the condemned person be given some drug to make him unconscious, and then the sentence can be executed by electrocution.

1. S. No. 378.

1114. A Judicial Officers' Association1 has suggested that the gas-chamber or electric chair may be introduced.

1. S. No. 374.

1115. Certain District and Session Judges favour electrocution1.

1. District and Sessions Judges, S. Nos. 384, 386, 389, 415, 418, 423, 427, 431, 433, 437, 442, 444, 459, 473, 478, 521, 522, 524 and 553.

1116. An Advocate1 has stated, that with the spread of education, youngmen are getting "tender in body, mind and habits", and that it is quite possible that hangmen may not be available; he suggests electrocution are more scientific and less expensive than hanging.

1. An Advocate, S. No. 474.

1117. A District and Sessions Judge1 has suggested that- it- is necessary to substitute an electric chair in place of hanging, and if that is not possible a firing squad may be resorted to.

1. S. No. 330.

1118. Several District and Sessions Judge1 are of the view that electrocution may be considered. One Sessions Judge2 has suggested that the electric chair may be provided, but the choice should rest with the convict whether he will prefer hanging to electrocution.

1. S. Nos. 347, 341 349, 355, 358, 360, 362, 364, 370, 372 and 375.

2. S. No. 353.

1119. The substitution of the electric chair has been suggested by a Bar Association1.

1. S. No. 220.

1120. The reasons given are that hanging is crude and cruel, while electrocution is instantaneous and humane. One of the replies quotes1, from the Royal Commissioner's Report2, observations to the effect that hanging was invented more for its advertisement.value than as a more effective way of taking life, and suggests that it should be replaced by electrocution, which is used in several States of the U.S.A. and in the District of Columbia. It is stated that (in electrocution) a current of 8 to 10 amperes is passed through the body, and unconsciousness results in less than 240th of a second, before the nervous system of the body can record any sensation of pain.

1. S. No. 122.

2. R.C. Report, p. 246, para. 701.

1121. It may be stated here that some of the replies which suggest electrocution in place of hanging do not rule out any other painless method.

1122. Some of the replies suggest substitution of the gas-chamber.1-2-3-4

1. A State Government, S. No. 129.

2. A State Law Commission, (Electrocution or gas chamber), S. No. 301.

3. Bharat Sewak Samaj, New Delhi, S. No. 145 (electrocution or gas-chamber).

4. Law Secretary to a State Government, S. No. 162.

1123. According to the Law Minister of a State1, while hanging is a most barbarous way of executing a death sentence, electrocution is no less revolting to human conscience. He suggests gas-chamber.

1. S. No. 253.

1124. A Judicial Officers Association1 has suggested electrocution or gas chamber. A District and Sessions Judge2 is of the same view.

1. S No. 374.

2. S. No. 370.

1125. Some of the replies suggest lethal injection. Then number is not very large.

1126. It has also been suggested1 that some kind of euthanasia on the advice of medical doctors be adopted. Electrocution or poisoning, as far as possible in a manner which the victim may not be able to anticipate, has been suggested by a District and Sessions Judge2.

1. S. No. 552 (Meeting held by Indian Conference of Social Work, West Bengal Branch on 29th April, 1965 in Calcutta).

2. S. No. 490.

1127. A group of replies1-4, while not committing themselves to any particular method, make a general suggestion that hanging should be replaced by a less painful and more humane method. Most of these replies would like the matter to be decided after ascertaining medical and other expert opinion.

1. As are Government, S. No. 182 (Hanging should be replaced by electrocution or gas-chamber or other less painful method. It is not possible to say which would be the least painful method).

2. The Indian Federation of Women Lawyers, S. No. 121.

3. S. No. 118.

4. A Member, Bar Council of Madras, S. No. 104.

1128. A State Government1 has suggested that the mode of carrying out the death sentence should be carefully examined by doctors or experts in this direction, and that method which is least inhuman should be adopted.

1. S. No. 574.

1129. Another State Government1 is of the view that there is need to have some more humane and instantaneous process than hanging, where possible.

1. S. No. 580.

1130. A District and Sessions Judge1 has suggested that the question should be decided on the advice of experts and such manner of carrying out the death sentence should be adopted which involves no or minimum possible physical, nervous and psychological pain and torture.

1. S. No. 487.

1131. Some of the replies1 merely state that the matter relates to medical opinion, and that death sentence should be carried out in a way least painful.

1. Two High Court Judges, S. No. 105.

1132. Some replies are in favour of the retention of hanging1-2-3-4. Some of these replies point out, that hanging is quick, has no complications and is not more painful than any other method. A few of the replies belonging to this group also emphasise that the deterrent effect of capital punishment could be achieved only by hanging. It is also stated5 that the really agonising part of death sentence is the knowledge that one is going to die, and that there is not much to choose as to the manner in which execution is carried out.

1. Two High Court Judges, S. No. 97.

2. A State Government, S. No. 154; Home Secretary to a State Government, S. No. 13; Administration of a Union Territory, S. No. 106.

3. Bar Association of India, S. No. 183.

4. Supreme Court Bar Association, S. No. 110; A Reader in Criminal Law, S. No. 107.

5. Administration of a Union Territory, S. No. 106.

1133. Two other State Governments1 would like to retain hanging.

1. State Governments, S. Nos. 261 and 311.

1134. The Chief Justice of a High Court1 has expressed the view that, according to the available information, the sentence of death carried out by hanging is practically instantaneous, and it is not shown that any other method of execution prevailing in any other country is more humane.

1. S. No. 399.

1135. In the opinion of a High Court Judge1, the mode of carrying out the sentence of death (by hanging) is, in the light of the present knowledge of science, the best possible and the most humane method, and no other known method is as quick, efficient or painless as the present one.

1. S. No. 396.

1136. A High Court Judge1 has stated that when all is said and done, hanging does not seem to be in any manner more distressing than the guillotine or the electric chair, and therefore, this form of execution may continue.

1. S. No. 251.

1137. Several High Court Judges1 are in favour of retaining hanging.

1. S. No. 262.

1138. A distinguished member of the Rajya Sabha1, while not suggesting a particular method, has emphasized that if capital punishment must remain on the statute book, it must be mercifully given in the quickest and least painful form.

1. S. No. 245.

1139. According to a senior Advocate1 of the Bombay High Court, a certain degree of terror is inevitable and indispensable in "the grim paraphernalia of judicial execution", and as far as his knowledge goes, according to expert medical opinion, death by regulated drop from the gibbet is as instantaneous as that by electric shock.

1. S. No. 318.

1140. A member of a State Legislature1 (who is also art Advocate) has stated that he had himself seen in a Central jail the arrangements for hanging, and he was told that if hanging is properly executed, there is probably only a few moments' difficulty.

1. S. No. 226.

1141. Retention of hanging has been favoured in many other replies1-2.

1. A District and Sessions Judge, S. No. 526.

2. A Bar Association in a High Court, S. No. 493.

1142. The majority of Presidency Magistrates in a Presidency Town1 are in favour of retaining hanging, because "apart, from the stigma involved in the idea of hanging acting as a deterrent, it is also said to be the quickest means of ending life.

1. S. No. 549.

1143. According to a gentleman1 who is a social worker and a State Jail Visitor, the present position may continue, since even in modern techniques the preliminary preparations do not in any way mitigate the mental agony.

1. S. No. 357.

1144. Apart from the actual method of execution, suggestions have been received on a few other points pertaining to the mode of execution.

1145. Thus, it has been stated that the dread of the sentence of death should be given wide publicity, to minimise crimes? One reply1 has suggested pre-publication of execution.

1. An Inspector-General of Prisons, S. No. 166.

2. A Disrict Bar Association, S. No. 218.

1146. It has been suggested1-2 that the law should provide for an autopsy to be performed immediately after the execution, to provide complete assurance.

1. S. No. 122.

2. See, in this connection, (i) section 5, Capital Punishment Amendment Act, 1868; (ii) R.C. Report, p. 250, para. 714.

1147. It is stated1 that the sentence should be executed publicly, to give a lesson to the public in general.

1. An M.L.A., Lucknow, S. No. 102.

1148. It has been suggested1 that execution should be given wide publicity.

1. A Bar Council, S. No. 116.

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