DELAYED EXECUTION AND ITS FORBEARANCE UNDER ARTICLE 21

The AFP recently examined the time an inmate spends on death row between sentencing and execution and questioned if inmates are being punished twice with long-term imprisonment and execution. They found an average inmate spends 13 years on death row, with some spending 30 years or more. Craig Haney, professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and expert on prisoners held in isolation, said, "People on death row live under the threat of death, which is of course an extraordinary psychological trauma, and they are denied most of the ways that people make life in prison more tolerable: meaningful social activity, programming of any kind, activities." U.S. Supreme Court Justice John-Paul Stevens, in a case involving a prisoner who had spent 29 years on death row, wrote, "The delay itself subjects death row inmates to decades of especially severe dehumanizing conditions of confinement."
Death sentence

Death penalty has been a mode of punishment since time immemorial. The arguments for and against has not changed much over the years. At this point of time when the issue [whether capital punishment must be abolished or not] is still raging, it will be appropriate to remind ourselves as to how the legislatures and the apex Court have dealt with this issue every time it has come up before them.

Procedure When Death sentence is Imposed

Special Reasons

The court has to record special reasons for imposing death sentence.

Confirmation by High Court

Court of Session after passing a death sentence shall submit the proceedings to the High Court, and the sentence shall not be executed unless it is confirmed by the High Court. The court passing the sentence shall then commit the convicted person to jail custody under a warrant.

Enquiry and Additional Evidence

The High Court while dealing with confirmation may order further inquiry be made into, or additional evidence taken upon, any point bearing upon, any point bearing upon the guilty or innocence of the convicted person.

No order for confirmation

No order for confirmation shall be made until the period allowed for preferring an appeal has expired, or if any appeal is presented within such period, until such appeal is disposed of. In every case so submitted, the confirmation of the sentence, or any new sentence or order passed by the High Court, shall when such court consists of two or more judges , be made, passed and signed by at least two of them.

Copy of Order Sent to Court of Session

In cases submitted by the court of session to the High Court for the confirmation of a sentence of death, the proper officer of the High Court shall ,without delay, after the order of confirmation or other order has been made by the High Court, send a copy of the order under the seal of the High Court and attested with his official signature, to the court of session.

Where a person is sentenced to death and an appeal from its judgment lies the execution of the sentence will be postponed until the period allowed for preferring such appeal has expired, or if an appeal is preferred within that period, until such appeal is disposed of.

Postponement of Death Sentence on Pregnant Woman

If a woman sentenced to death is found to be pregnant, the High Court shall order the execution of the sentence to be postponed and may, if it thinks fit, commute the sentence to imprisonment for life.

Mode Of Execution

The issue regarding the constitutionality of hanging as a mode of execution came up before the Supreme Court in Deena v. Union of India {[1993] 4 SCC 645}, though the court asserted that it was a judicial function to probe into the reasonableness of a mode of punishment, it refused to hold the mode of hanging as being violative of Article 21 of the constitution.

This issue was once again raised in Shashi Nayar {1992 SCC [CRI] 24] the court held that since the issue had already been considered in Deena, there was no good reason to take a different view.

Another issue which deserves attention is public hanging as a mode of execution. The issue of public hanging came to the