According to the recently released “Death Penalty India Report”, most death row inmates in India are poor, uneducated and first-time offenders.
What else the report says?
- A total of 241 out of the 385 death row inmates in India are first-time offenders.
- Around 60% of the prisoners did not complete secondary education and nearly 75% belonged to economically vulnerable sections.
- Three-fourth of the prisoners sentenced to death belong to backward classes and religious minorities.
- Overall, ‘murder simpliciter’ or accidental murder constitute most of the cases, followed by ‘rape with murder’.
- Median duration of trials and High Court proceedings in cases involving sexual offences is the lowest as compared to other cases. State-wise analysis also shows that trails were fastest in cases of sexual offence.
- Most prisoners who shared information didn’t have a lawyer during interrogation. Most of them claimed they had experienced custodial violence and were tortured in police custody.
- According to the report, education levels affect the extent to which the death row prisoners are able to understand details of the case filed against them; lack of which results in alienation from the system. Alienation experienced by prisoners through lack of awareness of proceedings increased as cases rise in the appellate system.
- Pendency of legal proceedings greater than five years is considered a grave violation of speedy justice by the Supreme Court. While the median duration of trial for the death row prisoners was around four years, trials went beyond five years for 127 prisoners. Though lengthy trials happen to be a concern in general, it has more significance in the case of death penalty.
- Also, the seriousness of charge often forces the families to hire a private lawyer than rely on poor quality of free legal aid provided by the government. The report finds that while the high fee of private lawyers – opted by more than 60% of the prisoners during trial and high court – deepens the economic vulnerability of the already poor families, it doesn’t ensure access to competent legal representation. This makes it difficult for an accused to “navigate through the various stages of the legal process without sufficient socio-economic and political resources.”