80 percent of the prisoners are tortured in police custody,” reveals a report titled ‘Death Penalty India Report’. The two-volume report, based on a study conducted from July 2013-January 2015, was released on Friday by the law university at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.
A first of its kind study published by the National Law University reveals that the administration of the death penalty in India is carried out by an extremely weak and crisis-ridden criminal justice system.
The report, which is based on personal interviews with all prisoners under the sentence of death in India between June 2013 and January 2015, also establishes that it is mostly the economically vulnerable and the socially marginalized with extremely low levels of educational attainment that are at the receiving end of capital punishment in India.
The report reveals that even the most foundational procedural safeguards were commonly flouted in the cases of prisoners sentenced to death.
“80 percent of the prisoners admitted to being tortured while they were in police custody, and the methods employed were inhuman, degrading and inflicted immense physical and mental suffering. Production before the Magistrate within 24 hours of arrest is the most basic protection against custodial torture provided under Article 22(1) of the Constitution of India,” says the report.
“64.3 percent prisoners said that they were not produced before a Magistrate within 24 hours and 89.4 percent did not have a lawyer when they were produced before a Magistrate. It is also noteworthy that 87.3 percent of the prisoners did not have any previous criminal record. During the trial of their cases in court, only 25.3 percent prisoners said that they were present during all hearings. Even when the accused were present in court for the trial, they struggled to understand the meaning and content of the proceedings unfolding before them,” it adds.
The report also documents the socio-economic profile of prisoners sentenced to death in India and explores their interaction with various facets of the criminal justice system.
The study reveals that 74.1 percent of the prisoners sentenced to death in India are economically vulnerable and 76 percent of the prisoners belonged to the SC/ST or OBC communities or to religious minority groups.
Further in the study, it was revealed that 23 percent of the prisoners had never attended school, and 61.6 percent had not completed their secondary education.
“Moreover, 36.5 percent of the prisoners were disadvantaged both in terms of their economically vulnerable status and their belonging to the SC/ST communities or religious minority groups,” the study said.
During the release, Dr. Anup Surendranath, the Director of the Centre on the Death Penalty, said while it is not possible to make any arguments regarding direct discrimination, the report certainly highlights the disparate impact of the death penalty in India on groups marginalised along the axis of caste, religion, economic vulnerability and educational status.
“The disparate impact of the death penalty becomes all the more grave when seen in light of its uniqueness as a form of punishment,” he said.
“As an exercise in examining the manner in which the harshest punishment in India’s criminal justice system is administered, the report throws light on some difficult questions that must form an integral part of our discussions on the death penalty,” he added. (ANI)