The fifth edition of 'Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistical Report', published by Project 39A, identified that sexual violence is increasingly influencing the implementation of the death penalty in India.
As a result of introducing the death penalty for child rape in 2018, the proportion of death sentences given to cases involving child rape has risen to 82 per cent of the total number of death sentences for sexual offences. "The changing realities of the death penalty in India highlight the necessity of robust empirical research that helps assess the impact of various measures and design well-considered reform," the report suggested.
Last year, a total of 77 death sentences were imposed by trial courts compared to 103 in 2019. 13 people were sentenced to death by session courts in Uttar Pradesh, the highest count across Indian states. However, only one man, convicted for the gang rape and murder of a woman in Delhi in December 2012, was executed.
The report correlates the fall in the number of death sentences with the limited functioning of courts due to the Covid-19 pandemic. "More than 60% of the death sentences imposed by trial courts this year were imposed before the first lockdown was announced. Yet, the 48 death sentences imposed within the first three months of the year, amounting to nearly 50% of last year's total, indicate that the total would likely have been much higher in the absence of the pandemic," the report notes.