Death penalty up by 53% in 2018, but most rape cases stuck at trial: Data

The four men convicted for the December 2012 rape and murder of ‘Nirbhaya’ are yet to be hanged. President Ram Nath Kovind had earlier rejected a mercy petition filed by one of the convicts.


India has carried out four executions since 2004, the last having been in 2015. Three of the accused were convicted of terrorism, while one was guilty of raping a minor.


In 2018, 186 convicts were awarded the death penalty, a 53% rise from 121 in 2017, according to the latest Prison Statistics India-2018 of the National Crime Records Bureau.


More than 40% of those sentenced to death in 2018 and a half (52.9%) of those in 2019 were convicted of cases related to sexual offences and murder, revealed Death Penalty India 2019, an annual report by the National Law University, New Delhi.


In August last year, India amended the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, to allow the death penalty for the rape of children younger than 12 years. Besides, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly in December passed a Bill to allow the death sentence in rape cases.


Strong demands for harsher punishment for sexual violence after the Nirbhaya gangrape had led to a number legislative changes, including the Criminal Law (Amendment Act), 2013, which brought stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks, and sexual harassment under its purview.


While the reforms improved reporting of rape, there is little impact on the conviction rate. For rape, it has been on a steady decline since 2007 and reached a historic low of 18.9% in 2016, from 27% in 2006, the data shows.

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