Report No. 187
(C) Times of India poll:
It may be mentioned that the Times of India on July 27, 2003 conducted an SMS Poll asking the question "Are public execution best punishment for heinous crimes?" The response was 69 per cent 'Yes' and 31 per cent 'No'. Public reaction in India against the trend of humanizing the mode of execution of death punishment is peculiar.
The Commission feels that the reason as to why general public is in favour of a cruel form of executing death punishment is because of the very low conviction rate which is only about 6 per cent and the crime rate is also increasing in India. Investigation and judicial agencies are not able to bring the actual persons who commit crimes before the courts of justice.
The general public feels that today, the high, the rich and the mighty are able to manipulate delays, tamper with witnesses and able to abuse the system and they go scot 80free. It may also be mentioned that the Judge Advocates General of the Army, Navy and the Air Force, who responded, favoured amending of the Army, Navy and Air Force Acts to replace hanging by lethal injection but they were of the view that there should be no right of appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision of the Court Martial.
After the inaugural, the Chairman Law Commission who presided over the said Seminar, opened the discussion to the various participants which included mainly advocates, senior Police officials, government officials , NGOs, representatives of Judge Advocates General of the Army, Navy and Air Force and Jail Officials. Regarding the questionnaire, the participants were asked to give their comments on issues like alternative modes of execution of death sentence, right of appeal to the Supreme Court, number of Judges comprising the Bench which should hear such matters etc.
Shri Sushil Kumar (Senior Advocate, Supreme Court) stated that there is no need to amend section 354 (5) of Cr.PC and he thus favoured execution of death by hanging. On the question of right of appeal, he was of the view that every case of death sentence should go to the Supreme Court as a matter of right. On the question of the composition of the Bench deciding the case of death sentence, he suggested that it is sufficient if a minimum of a 3-Judges Bench hear it and favoured rule of unanimity in such cases.
Sh.Ajay Aggarwal, D.G. Tihar Jail favoured execution of death sentence by hanging and he was of the view that a 5-Judges Bench should decide the sentence and majority decision should prevail. Shri U.N.B. Rao, Joint Commissioner, Delhi Police opined mode of death punishment by way of public hanging because of its greater impact. Further he said that the rule of majority in the Bench should be applicable in 81such cases. Sh.K.P.S. Rajan, Advocate favoured mode of hanging over lethal injection, and regarding the mode of punishment, he said that the choice may be given to the judge or the accused. There should be a right of appeal and a 5-Judges Bench should decide case of death sentence.
Ms. Pratibha Ramaswamy, Student of National Law School of India, University Bangalore preferred death sentence by hanging. She was of the view that more modes may be there for execution. There should be no right of appeal and minimum 5 Judges Bench should decide the cases of death sentence. Sh.S.K.Sharma, (Director Prosecution, CBI) favoured retention of death sentence.
The choice of punishment should rest with the victim. 3 Judges Bench should hear the matter and majority view should prevail and there should be a right of appeal to the Supreme Court. Sh. Balachandra representative of Commonwealth Human Right Initiative said that death sentence should be abolished. Sh.James, Advocate suggested that criminal justice system requires amendments like improving the system of trial, investigation, prosecution etc. Dr. D.P. Sharma, Director, IRAP preferred hanging in public over the private hanging in jails. According to him single Judge Bench is enough to decide the death sentence and simple majority rule is better.
Judge Advocates General of the Army, Navy and Air Force wrote letters to the Law Commission suggesting that there should not be a right of appeal to the Supreme Court against the Court Martial verdict of awarding death punishment. The Law Commission is, however, unable to accept the above suggestion.
The public response to the questionnaire was widespread and the Commission got responses from within and outside India. Several persons were of the opinion that though the death punishment has been abolished in several countries, however the conditions in India, a country which is affected by terrorism and by rise in crime, death punishment should not be abolished.