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Delay in Execution of Death Sentence - A Study of Judicial Behavior

NCJ Number
Social Defence Volume: 21 Issue: 83 Dated: (January 1986) Pages: 30-35
P S Jaswal; N Jaswal
Date Published
6 pages
This article reviews Indian Supreme Court decisions bearing upon the constitutionality of the delayed implementation of capital sentences.
Article 21 of India's Constitution mandates that no person shall 'be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.' Indian courts have ruled that if a person is deprived of life or liberty under a procedure which is not 'reasonable, just, or fair,' such a deprivation violates article 21. In T.V. Vatheswaran v. State of Tamil Nadu (1983), the Indian Supreme Court held that prolonged detention to await the execution of a death sentence is an unjust, unfair, and unreasonable procedure, requiring that the death sentence be quashed and a sentence of life imprisonment substituted. In this same case, the Court ruled that a delay exceeding 2 years is sufficient to invoke Article 21. Although a subsequent Supreme Court decision questions this 2-year standard, it continues to be applied. The resolution of the problem is to give top priority to capital cases on court calendars so they might be tried expeditiously and appeals heard as soon as possible after conviction. 35 footnotes.