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India Resumes Executions After 8 Years, Expands Death Penalty to Rape Not Resulting in Death

Death Penalty Worldwide recently updated its entry for India. For the first time in eight years, India has carried out two executions, the first in November 2012 with the hanging of 2008 Mumbai attack gunman Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab and the second in February 2013 with the hanging of Muhammad Afzal, who was convicted of plotting the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament.  Commentators have linked both executions to the new president’s swift denials of clemency, which break with his predecessors’ practice of delaying a decision and thus creating a de facto moratorium on the use of capital punishment. Both recent executions also came shrouded in controversial secrecy. The public and the convicted prisoners’ families were not informed of the new president’s clemency denial or the executions until after they took place.

Following the highly publicized case of a 23-year-old woman who was gang raped and murdered, India also recently expanded its laws to include the death penalty as punishment for some instances of rape that cause the victim to fall into a permanent “vegetative state.” The heinousness of the crime prompted wide protests throughout the country demanding swifter and harsher punishments. Also in response to the recent rape case, the age of juvenile eligibility for punishment has been brought into question because one of the accused was allegedly 17 at the time of the offense. Some states have proposed bills lowering the age of eligibility for capital punishment from 18 to 16 – in contravention of international human rights treaties. However, the Indian government has made it clear that it would not seek to expose juveniles to the death penalty, and has begun juvenile proceedings against the 17-year-old accused.