'Consistent with dignity, socially acceptable', SC mulls panel to examine less painful method of execution

'Consistent with dignity, socially acceptable', SC mulls panel to examine less painful method of execution
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it is open to setting up a panel of experts while asking the Centre to initiate a discussion and collect relevant information to examine if there is a less painful method alternative to hanging by the neck to execute the death penalty.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud said one of the aspects could be to look at the matter from the point of view of science and technology.

The Chief Justice queried if there was a method which is consistent with human dignity and socially acceptable, based on today's knowledge of technology and science.

"Do we have any data either in India or overseas relating to the circumstances as they transpired in the execution of sentence of death with alternate methods?"

The bench, also comprising Justice P.S. Narasimha, said: "alternatively, do we constitute a committee, thinking it aloud, not passing an order now. Committee to reflect on it. We can have two national law universities to be on the committee, experts dealing in execution of the sentence of death... We can also have people drawn from medical sciences, maybe one or two professors or doctors from AIIMS. We can have other distinguished people from the country."


The top court allowed Attorney General (AG) R. Venkataramani time till May to ascertain if any study has been conducted to find a more humane method of execution.

"There two perspectives to look at, one, is there any alternate method, which is more consistent with human dignity so as to render this method of execution as unconstitutional. Two, even if there is no alternate method, does this method satisfy the test for proportionality so as to be upheld", the Chief Justice told the AG to examine.

The bench further added that change in technology or availability of better science is a ground for relooking it and in order to relook at hanging, the court must have some underlying data.

"At legal level, we must have some scientific data in our hands as we can hear you on the remit of the committee, the ambit of the committee you can come back to us," the Chief Justice told the AG.

The apex court was hearing a writ petition by advocate Rishi Malhotra seeking a direction for quashing the provision contained under Section 354(5) of the Criminal Procedure Code as ultra vires the Constitution and especially Article 21 being discriminatory and also in contravention of the constitution bench judgment in Gian Kaur's case.

Malhotra contented that he is challenging the method of execution of the death sentence in India i.e. by hanging by the neck till the prisoner is dead.

The plea, citing Kaur's judgment, said: "the Right to Life including the Right to Live with human dignity would mean the existence of such a right up to the end of natural life. This also includes the right to a dignified life up to the point of death including a dignified procedure of death. In other words, this may include the right of a dying man to also die with dignity when his life is ebbing out."

In October 2017, the apex court issued notice to the Centre noting the contention of the petitioner that the convict whose life has to end because of the conviction and the sentence should not be compelled to suffer the pain of hanging.

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