Methods Of Execution
The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 called for the method of execution to be hanging. The same method was adopted in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Section 354(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) states "When any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he be hanged by the neck till he is dead."
In Deena and Ors. v. Union of India, AIR 1983 SC 1155, the petitioners challenged the constitutionality of section 354(5), CrPC on the ground that hanging a convict is a cruel method of executing the death sentence, and is violative of Article 21 of the Constitution. In deciding the matter, the Supreme Court examined other means of execution such as electrocution, lethal gas, lethal injection and shooting and concluded that none of these methods had a ‘distinct advantage’ over hanging.
It further examined if hanging, when considered in isolation as a mode of executing the death sentence, offended Article 21. The Court referred to scientific and legal opinion as per which hanging by rope is not a cruel mode of executing the death sentence. The Apex Court opined that if a prisoner is sentenced to death, he cannot be subjected to humiliation, torture or degradation before the execution of that sentence, not even as necessary steps in the execution of that sentence since that would amount to inflicting a punishment on the prisoner which does not have the authority of law. Accordingly the Court held that that the method prescribed by Section 354(5), CrPC for executing the death sentence did not violate the provision contained in Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Army Act and Air Force Act also provide for the execution of the death sentence. Section 34 of the Air Force Act, 1950 empowers the court martial to impose the death sentence for the offences mentioned in Section 34(a) to (o) of The Air Force Act, 1950. Section 163 of the Act provides for the form of the sentence of death as:-
"In awarding a sentence of death, a court-martial shall, in its discretion, direct that the offender shall suffer death by being hanged by the neck until he be dead or shall suffer death by being shot to death".
This provides for the discretion of the Court Martial to either provide for the execution of the death sentence by hanging or by being shot to death. Several other Armed Forces and Paramilitary legislations such as the Army Act, 1950, the Navy Act, 1957, the Border Security force Act, 1968, The Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force Act 1992, the Indian Coast Guard Act, 1978, Assam Rifles Act, 2006 and the Sashastra Seema Bal Act, 2007 also provide that execution may be carried out either by hanging by neck till death or by being shot to death.