Mumbai courts top in giving death penalty
31 Dec 2007, 0020 hrs IST
MUMBAI: This is one grim statistic that the city will not be proud of. Of the 25 death penalties handed down by trial courts in India in 2007, 12 were given in Mumbai alone.
Moreover, this year, the Bombay High Court confirmed death sentences for six persons, which again is the highest number among all high courts in the country. In comparison, the Delhi and Chennai HCs upheld death sentences for one and three persons.
Going by the cases lined up for hearing, in 2008 too, prosecutors in Mumbai are likely to ask for more than 20 persons to be sent to the gallows if they are found guilty of the crimes they are charged with. The last execution in Maharashtra was carried out on July 12, 1995, when a convict named Amrutlal Joshi was hanged at Pune's Yerawada jail.
Currently, the state has 42 convicts on death row -- which is also the highest number for any state in the country. The latest additions came last Thursday when a fast-track court in Pune sentenced two women -- Leena Deosthali and Deepti Deosthali -- for murdering a doctor in 2006.
"The Bombay HC is confirming death sentences where the crime is marked by brazen brutality,'' said senior lawyer Shrikant Bhat. He added that these days brutal crimes are highlighted by media and courts are reluctant to be lenient on them. "Organized crime and terror acts also invite the death penalty," he added.
The 12 men who received capital punishment in Mumbai in 2007 were those found guilty by the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (prevention) court in the 1993 serial blasts case. The prosecution had demanded death for 44 convicts connected to the case but the court awarded it only to a dozen.
"Terror attacks are one category where the courts are considering the crime heinous enough to be punished with death," said ex-IPS officer and advocate Y P Singh. The SC says death penalty should be an exception and not the rule and given only in the "rarest of rare" cases.
The six confirmations of death sentence by the Bombay HC came in two cases. Three robbers, who had killed five members of a family, at Nashik and three others, who were convicted in the Vasai honour killings, can now only hope for a reprieve from the SC.
Incidentally, in 2007, the SC upheld death sentences for two women from Maharashtra, Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit, who had kidnapped and killed 14 children. If their execution is carried out then they will be the first women to be hanged in India. In 2008, prosecutors in Mumbai are expected to demand death for five persons including a woman, if they are held guilty of carrying out the twin blasts at the Gateway and Zaveri Bazaar in 2004.
TIMES OF INDIA