With 165 persons sentenced to death last year, 2022 saw the highest yearly rise in two decades. The number of prisoners on death row also increased from 490 in 2021 to 539 om 2022, according to the Annual Death Penalty Report 2022 published by Project 39A, a criminal reforms advocacy group with the National Law University in Delhi.
This increase, the report says, “has been sharply influenced by the extraordinary sentencing of 38 persons to death in Ahmedabad in a single bomb blast case, representing the largest number of persons sentenced to death in a single case since 2016.”
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Maximum case by trial courts
According to the report, 98.3 per cent of the death penalty cases were decided by trial courts. With an increase in number of death sentences by trial courts and the higher courts hearing fewer cases of appeal, there has been a 40 per cent increase in number of death prisoners on death row since 2015.
“The large death row population signals the continued imposition of a high number of death sentences by trial courts with a low rate of disposal by appellate courts,” the report says.
“In the year 2022, high courts across India decided 68 matters, while the Supreme Court decided 11 matters,” says the report. Notably, very few death sentences are upheld by higher courts. In the 68 cases decided by the high courts, only four death sentences were confirmed.
According to the report, in 2022, 51 people were sentenced to death by the Gujarat Sessions Court, 32 by the UP Sessions Court and 17 by Jharkhand court. Courts of Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir and Manipur and Telangana did not give any death sentence. Among the 165 prisoners sentenced to death, there were two women — one in Maharashtra and one in Uttar Pradesh – sentenced in murder cases.
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The report also states that cases of sexual violence dominated the death penalty imposition, accounting for almost third of the capital punishment cases.