The Supreme Court today granted six weeks to the Centre to file its response to a plea which seeks to set aside the legal provision that a death row convict would only be hanged to death. A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud allowed more time to the Centre on the PIL, which also refers to the 187th Report of the Law Commission advocating removal of the present mode of execution from the statute. The apex court had earlier termed the Constitution as a "compassionate" and "organic" guiding book and said the legislature could think of changing the law so that a convict, facing death penalty, dies "in peace and not in pain". On October 6, the apex court sought the Centre's response on the plea filed in personal capacity by lawyer Rishi Malhotra which referred to Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution and said it also included the right of a condemned prisoner to have a dignified mode of execution so that death becomes less painful. The plea said the Law Commission report had noted a significant increase in the number of countries where hanging has been abolished and substituted by electrocution, shooting or lethal injection as methods of execution. The lawyer also referred to various apex court judgements in which the practise of hanging a death row convict has been assailed. The plea said "dying with dignity is part of right to life" and the present practice of executing a death row convict by hanging involves "prolonged pain and suffering". The present procedure can be replaced with intravenous lethal injection, shooting, electrocution or gas chamber in which death is just a matter of minutes, it said. The PIL sought quashing of section 354(5) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which states that when a person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he be hanged by the neck till he is dead. It said execution was not only "barbaric, inhuman and cruel", but also against the resolutions adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The plea also said that execution should be as quick and as simple as possible and free from anything that unnecessarily sharpened the poignancy of the prisoner's apprehension. It sought to declare "right to die by a dignified procedure of death as a fundamental right as defined under Article 21 of the Constitution". "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," it added. Drawing a comparison, the petition said that while in hanging, the entire execution process takes over 40 minutes to declare prisoner dead, the shooting process involves not more than a few minutes.
In case of intravenous lethal injection, it is all over in 5 minutes. "The Act of the execution should produce immediate unconsciousness passing quickly into the death. It should be decent. It should not involve mutilation," the plea added.
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