Highest Number Of Death Penalties Awarded By Trial Courts In 2018 Since 2000 : Project 39A Report

Highest Number Of Death Penalties Awarded By Trial Courts In 2018 Since 2000 : Project 39A Report

162 death penalties were awarded by trial courts in 2018

In the year 2018, 162 death penalties were awarded by trial courts, which is the highest in a calender year since 2000, says the "Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistics 2018" released by Project 39A under the auspices of National Law University Delhi.

The annual report, which is the third edition of the project, also reveals a rising trend to award death penalty in non-homicidal cases, following the amendments to IPC and POCSO Act prescribing death sentence for sexual crimes against children.

The report makes a special mention of the fact that Justice Kurian Joseph called for reconsideration of the constitutionality of death penalty in the case Chhannu Lal Verma v State of Chattisgarh.

Key takeaways from the report :,

  • In 11 cases, Supreme Court commuted death sentence to life imprisonment. It was confirmed in 3 cases.
  • On November 22, SC ruled that there cannot be "in limine" dismissals of SLPs challenging death sentences
  • SC recognised the right of death row convicts to consult mental health professionals and interact with family members.
    • At the level of High Courts, out of 110 death sentence cases, 58 were commuted; 23 resulted in acquittals; 23 cases were confirmed and 10 cases were remanded.
    • Madhya Pradesh ranked the first in awarding death penalty, with 22 cases, which is a drastic jump from the figure of 6 in 2017.
    • Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were the only 2 states which awarded death penalty under the 2018 IPC amendmnet
    • President Ram Nath Kovind rejected the mercy petition filed by Jagat Rai on April 3. Four more petitions are pending his consideration.
    • As on December 31, 2018, the cumulative figure of prisoners sentenced to death penalty is 426. In 2017, it was 366.


The report raises concerns about the policy adopted by Madhya Pradesh Government to reward public prosecutors for securing death sentences. Securing a death penalty will reward a prosecutor with 1000 points. The reward system also awards titles like "Best Prosecutor of the Month". "Pride of Prosecution" etc. The report voices the concern that the system interferes with "prosecutorial independence".

It also highlights the fact that many cases of death penalty were remanded by High Court after noticing glaring irregularities in the trial court procedure like recording the statement of witnesses in the absence of accused, not giving opportunity to accused to give statement under Section 313 CrPC, lack of hearing on sentence, failure to provide free legal aid etc.

Read the report