The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a curative petition filed by Yakub Menon, sentenced to death by a special TADA court for his role in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. With all legal options exhausted, Mr. Menon is likely to be hanged on July 30.
This will be India’s third execution since it lifted its informal eight-year moratorium on executions in December 2012, when it hanged Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. In early 2013, Afzal Guru was hanged for his role in the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. These were the first hangings since that of Dhananjay Chatterjee in 2004, a watchman who raped and murdered a teenager.
Even as its informal moratorium went on, India did not stop handing out death sentences. Trial courts across the country sentenced 1800 people to death over the last 15 years, but only five per cent of these sentences were confirmed by the Supreme Court, data collected by the Centre on the Death Penalty at the National Law University, Delhi, shows. Around 385 people are currently on death row in India.
India is one of only 58 countries worldwide which retain the death penalty.
In July 2013, the CNN-IBN-The Hindu election tracker conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies across a representative sample of 20,0000 respondents in 18 states found that 40 per cent of respondents were in favour of an end to the death penalty, while 30 per cent were against it. Another 30 per cent had no opinion.
A strong debate about the death penalty rages in India. In 2012, 14 eminent former judges wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee detailing 13 cases in which the death penalty had been wrongly awarded. Two of the people in these cases had already been executed. However India continues to add criminal sections that attract the death penalty. Most recently, the 2013 Criminal Law Amendment to India’s rape laws introduced death for aggravated rape.