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The curious case of capital punishment in India

The share of death sentences for sexual crimes is on the rise, driven by several state-level sentencing decisions.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jan 19, 2020, 06.27 AM IST
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The four convicts in the 2012 Delhi gangrape case could be hanged on February 1. This will be the first time in 5 years a death penalty will be carried out in India and puts a spotlight on courts handing out capital punishment for murders involving sexual violence.

102 Capital Punishments in 2019:
After handing out 186 death sentences in 2018 — a 20-year high — the number of capital punishments given out at trial courts in 2019 declined sharply to 102. But the share of death sentences for sexual crimes is on the rise, driven by several state-level sentencing decisions.

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Spotlight on Sexual Crime:
There is a clear focus on perpetrators of sexual crimes as particularly “deserving” of the death penalty. However, there is no evidence that adding the death penalty for rape under certain circumstances has acted as a deterrent. In fact, the number of rape-murders increased between 2017 and 2018.
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402 on Death Row:

At the end of 2018, there were 402 people who had been handed out capital punishment in the country, with Maharashtra home to the most number of such convicts (76), followed, some distance away, by Uttar Pradesh (44) and Madhya Pradesh (40).
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Pace of a Case:

Despite the 2012 Delhi gangrape case used as an example of rape victims having to wait many years for justice, the case progressed faster than the average death penalty case, especially in the initial years.

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Death Row Convicts: A Profile:
Poorly educated and primary breadwinners for their families, the Delhi gangrape case convicts fit the description of the average person sentenced to death in the country.
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