India should ban death penalty: Amnesty International

London: Though India did not carry out any executions in the last five years, a noted human rights body on Tuesday called on the government to ban death sentences.

In its annual report, 'The Amnesty International' welcomed India not having any cases of executions since 2004, but urged the government "to improve its mixed record and move faster on the incremental path to abolition".

"For the fifth consecutive year India did not carry out any execution although numerous death sentences were imposed," the report said.

"A crucial step for the Indian government is to accept the Supreme Court's suggestion to empower bodies such as the Law Commission or the National Human Rights Commission to carry out comprehensive research into the death penalty," Claudio Cordone, Interim Secretary General, said.

He expressed disappointment that India had included the death penalty in a proposed amendment to the Anti-Hijacking Act and that the country had voted against a death penalty moratorium in the UN General Assembly in 2007 and 2008.

A number of judgments of the Supreme Court recognised arbitrariness of the application of death penalty in India, Cordone said.

One judgement, the report of the rights body on 'Death penalty in India', observed, "extremely uneven application of (the rarest of the rare formulation) has given rise to a state of uncertainty in capital sentencing law which clearly falls foul of constitutional due process and equality principle."

According to it, judges called for "credible research by the Law Commission of India or the National Human rights Commission to encourage an informed discussion and debate on the question of death penalty."

In the same judgement, the Supreme Court also acknowledged the United Nations General Assembly moratorium resolution and the global move against the death penalty, noting in particular the abolitions by South Asian States of Nepal and Bhutan and the positive developments in Philippines and South Korea, it said.

The report said more people were executed in Asia than in the rest of the world combined. The vast majority of executions were carried out in China, although at least 26 executions were known to have been carried out in seven other countries in the Asia-Pacific region: Bangladesh (3), Japan (7) and Vietnam (at least 9).

At least 819 death sentences were known to have been imposed, including 50 in India, it said.

The report said at least 17,118 people were awarded death sentence as of Dec 31, 2009. China again refused to divulge exact figures on its use of death penalty.