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Report No. 35

Topic Number 60

Interval to be allowed between death sentence and execution

1159. Interval to be allowed between death sentence and execution.-

The question-how much interval should be allowed between the pronouncement of the death sentence and the actual execution-may be considered1. Usually, on receipt of confirmation by the High Court of a capital sentence, the Court of Session specifies in the warrant, addressed to the jailor, that the execution is not to be carried out until a day therein named. Thus, according to the instructions issued in the erstwhile State of Bombay2, the Court of Session has to fix the period, between the date of the receipt by it of the order confirming the sentence of death, and the date of the execution, as from 21 to 28 days.

1. At present, there are no statutory provisions on the subject, and the matter seems to he governed by Criminal Rules.

2. See Criminal Manual issued by the High Court of Bombay (1948), para. 148.

1160. The matter was considered by the Royal Commission1. In England, the date of execution is fixed by the Sheriff for a day (other than Monday) in the week following the third Sunday after the day on which the sentence is passed. If there is an appeal and it is 'unsuccessful, the Sheriff appoints a new date of execution, which is so fixed as to allow a period of not less than 14 and not more than 18 clear days to elapse between the determination of the appeal and the date of execution. In Scotland, the date and place of execution are appointed by the Court while passing the sentence of death. Details of the Scotish provision need not detain us here.

The Royal Commission suggested certain changes in the Scotish provision, but no change in this respect so far as England was concerned. The Commission specifically considered the question whether the length of the period between the sentence of death and execution should be reduced in order to shorten the period of strain on the prisoner and those about him. But the Commission felt, that this might amount to running the risk of handicapping the prisoner and his advisers in arranging for an appeal and bringing forward information that might justify a reprieve. It also pointed out that the Secretary of the State should have enough time to make necessary inquiries before deciding whether the sentence should be carried out.

1. R.C. Report, paras. 752 and 758.

1161. In practice, the interval between the confirmation of the sentence by the High Court and the actual carrying out of the sentence may be much longer than that contemplated in the rules, because of an appeal or a petition for mercy1. The question is linked up with the general question of speedy disposal of criminal appeals, though, of course, in the case of a capital crime, lapse of long time is naturally undesirable, because the convicted man "dies a thousand deaths".

1. For a study of the position in the United States and Canada, see the article "Time-lapse between sentence and execution-U.SA. and Canada compared" in (1962) American Bar Association Journal, p. 1043.

1162. We do not suggest any statutory provision on the subject in this Report.

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