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488 convicts on death row across India today; 114 added in 2021 alone

There has been a 21 per cent jump in the number of prisoners on death row. 

488 convicts facing death sentence across India today; 114 added in 2021 alone
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New Delhi, First Published Jan 31, 2022, 11:35 AM IST

There are about 488 convicts on death row across India as of today, the highest since 2004. This startling information has been brought to light by research organization Project 39A of the National Law University which released the sixth edition of its Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistics Report.

Citing the data from the Prison Statistics published by the National Crime Records Bureau, the report noted that there had been a 21 per cent jump in the number of convicts on death row. The number, though, is still short of the death row population of 563 in 2004.

The reasons attributed to this increased number of death row inmates include appellate courts taking up far fewer death sentence cases. Covid-triggered restrictions in 2020 and 2021 meant limited functioning of appellate courts resulting in fewer appeals of convicts sentenced to death being decided.

Besides, central and state legislations contributed to the tally. The Women & Child Development Ministry introduced a bill proposing capital punishment for repeat aggravated trafficking offences involving children and women. Madhya Pradesh and Punjab governments introduced capital punishment for deaths caused by spurious liquor. In Maharashtra, the death penalty was added for the 'heinous' offence of rape. 

Sexual offences continued to dominate death sentencing by the trial courts. At least 54.21 per cent of the cases where a death penalty was given involved sexual offences

The report noted that trial courts imposed 144 death sentences in 2021, which is nearly double the tally of 77 the year before. At 62, murder convicts accounted for a majority of the death sentences handed out by the trial courts in 2021. 

The top three states where a maximum number of death sentences were handed out in 2021 include Uttar Pradesh (34) followed by Bihar (27) and Tamil Nadu (15). Uttar {radesh also topped the list when it came to the highest death row population till the end of December 2021. While 86 of the death row inmates were Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra had 41 and West Bengal 38.

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