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Indian Case Summary

Deena @ Deena Dayal Etc. Etc vs Union Of India And Others on 23 September, 1983 – Case Summary

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In the case of Deena @ Deena Dayal Etc. Etc vs Union Of India And Others, dated 23 September 1983, the Supreme Court of India was confronted with a significant question concerning the constitutionality of the method of execution of the death penalty. The petitioners, who had been sentenced to death for murder, were awaiting execution. They contended that the method of hanging by rope, as prescribed by Section 354(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, was a cruel and barbarous method of execution, and thus, violated Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Facts of the Case

The petitioners had been convicted of murder and were awaiting the execution of their death sentences. They argued that the method of execution, hanging by rope, was cruel and barbarous, and thus, violated their rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The respondents, the Union of India and others, raised a preliminary objection that the question had already been concluded by the decision in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, [1983]1 S.C.R. 145. The objection was overruled.

Issues Raised

The primary issue raised by the petitioners was the constitutionality of Section 354(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which prescribes hanging by rope as the method of execution for the death penalty. They contended that this method was cruel, inhuman, and degrading, and thus, violated their rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. They further argued that it was the constitutional obligation of the State to provide for a humane and dignified method of execution, which did not involve torture of any kind.

The respondents, on the other hand, contended that a sentence lawfully imposed by a court can and has to be executed, though by causing the least pain and suffering and by avoiding torture or degradation of any kind. They argued that the method prescribed by Section 354(5), Cr. P.C. for executing the death sentence is a humane and dignified method involving the least amount of pain and cruelty.

Court’s Observations

The Supreme Court, after considering the arguments of both sides, held that the method prescribed by Section 354(5), Cr. P.C. for executing the death sentence does not violate the provision contained in Article 21 of the Constitution. The Court observed that the material placed before it showed that hanging by rope is not a cruel mode of executing the death sentence. The system consists of a mechanism which is easy to assemble, quick, and certain, and eliminates the possibility of a lingering death. Unconsciousness supervenes almost instantaneously after the process is set in motion and death follows as a result of dislocation of the cervical vertebrae.

The Court also noted that the system of hanging by rope is in operation in large parts of the civilized world and there is a responsible body of scientific and legal opinion which holds that hanging by rope is not a cruel mode of executing the death sentence. The Court concluded that the system of hanging is as painless as is possible in the circumstances, that it causes no greater pain than any other known method of executing the death sentence, and that it involves no barbarity, torture, or degradation.

The Court dismissed the petitions, upholding the constitutionality of Section 354(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and the method of execution it prescribes.