Exposing cracks in the Indian legal system, a first of its kind study published by the National Law University highlights that one out of every three people given death sentence by trial courts in the country is eventually acquitted.
The study, titled ‘Death Penalty India Report’, also states that 75% of the prisoners on death row in the country are from the economically vulnerable sections of society, according to news reports.
The report brought to the fore the apathy of the death row convicts with 80% of those interviewed saying that they were tortured by waterboarding, cigarette burns, forced nudity, pulling out fingernails to being subject to electric shocks while in police custody.
Detailed interviews of 373 of the 385 death row inmates in India, their families and jail authorities between June 2013 and January 2015 are included in the report by the National Law University.
"The report shows our criminal justice system not just needs procedural but systemic reform. The legal aid system is a joke. No one really has any faith in it," Supreme Court Judge Justice Madan B Lokur was quoted as saying by NDTV.
Over 80% of prisoners facing death penalty were school drop outs and almost half of them had started working before turning 18.
Around 25% of the convicts were juveniles or under 21 years of age or above 60 years of age at the time of committing the crime, news reports show.
“The report demonstrates that we rely on a completely broken criminal justice system to administer the death penalty in this country… the real question in this context is whether we should be relying on such a criminal justice to administer a punishment like the death penalty,” Anup Surendranath, lead author of the study told The Indian Express.
“It is evident from our study that burdens imposed by our criminal justice system while handing out death sentences are incapable of being met by the economically and socially vulnerable sections. As a result, you see the death penalty disproportionately affecting those who have the least capabilities to negotiate the criminal justice system,” he added.
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