Hanging not as ‘barbaric, inhuman and cruel’ as execution by lethal injection: Govt tells SC

 

New Delhi: The Central government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that death by hanging is not as “barbaric, inhuman and cruel” as an execution by firing squad or lethal injection.

Supporting a legal provision that a death row convict would only be hanged to death, the Ministry of Home Affairs told a bench headed by Chief Justice Deepak Misra that death by hanging was “quick, simple” and free from anything that would unnecessarily sharpen the poignancy of the prisoner.

“Execution, as contemplated under section 354(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, is not barbaric, inhuman and cruel as well as in compliance with safeguard no. 9 of the resolutions adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC),” said the affidavit filed by the ministry.

The affidavit came while responding to a PIL filed by advocate Rishi Malhotra challenging the constitutionality of hanging to death as a mode of execution.

Section 354 (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure mandates that a person sentenced to death shall “be hanged by the neck till he is dead”.

The apex court had termed the Constitution as a “compassionate and organic” guiding book and asked it to consider changing the law so that a convict, facing death penalty, dies in peace and not in pain.

The affidavit of the ministry further stated: “Lethal injection, which is believed to be painless, has also been contested on the ground that it may lead to uncomfortable death wherein the convict is unable to express his/her discomfort because of paralysis by the paralytic agent injected. It is believed by many that lethal injection, as is practised currently, is designed to create only an appearance of serenity and painless death.”

It added that such injections, if made available, can be misused, and also ruled out the option of execution by a firing squad contending that it was not “fail-safe” and can be extremely painful if shooters miss the heart by accident or by intention.

“Hanging with more advanced procedures is far safer than techniques such as lethal injections… the procedure by which a death sentence is to be executed is dependent upon a variety of factors such as economic feasibility, availability of skilled and technical personnel, equipment and resources, rate of botched executions,” the affidavit said, adding that the mode of execution is a “matter of legislative policy”.