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Over 300 prisoners on death row in India

IANS
Aug 06, 2009 at 07:40pm IST

New Delhi: Mohammed Hanif Sayed, his wife Fahimida and their associate Ashrat Shafique Ansari who were sentenced to death by a special court Thursday for the 2003 Mumbai twin blasts will join a list of over 300 people on death row in the country’s prisons.

The three were held guilty of carrying out the August 25, 2003, blasts in Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazar in which 54 people were killed and 244 injured.

According to a 2007 report released by human rights groups Amnesty International and the People's Union of Civil Liberties, at least 140 of those in death row were sentenced between 2006 and 2007. Last year, 70 people across the country were sentenced to death in India.

HANGING ON: From Parliament-attack convict Afzal Guru to Mumbai bomber Mohd Hanif, over 300 convicts on death row.

The report, Lethal Lottery: The Death Penalty in India, is the first comprehensive analysis of around 700 Supreme Court judgements on death penalty cases over more than 50 years.

According to the Home Ministry, there are at least 28 prisoners at the final stage of seeking presidential pardon while the rest are awaiting results of appeals to courts.

Among those whose mercy petitions are still with the president are Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who is currently lodged in New Delhi's high-security Tihar jail.

While Afzal Guru is the most publicised case on the list, there are other high-profile convicts as well.

Also on the list are the mercy petitions of Murugan, Shanthan and Perarivalan who have been convicted for their role in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The death sentence of Murugan's wife, Nalini, was commuted to life-term.

Sikh militant Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar's petition has been pending since 2004. He was given the death sentence for masterminding the attempt on the life of former Youth Congress chief Maninderjit Singh Bitta.

India last carried out a death sentence in 2004 when Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in 1990.

His mercy petition was rejected by the President.

While the Home Ministry maintains that it will review all mercy petitions in chronological order, opinion is divided within the government on fixing time limits for deciding on the petitions.

Some cabinet ministers believe that the death penalty should be replaced with life sentence without parole, maintaining they are an effective replacement for the death penalty.

A total of 135 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, having realised executions are unacceptable.

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