PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 20/37/99
UA 284/99 Death Penalty 29 October 1999
Amnesty International is concerned that two men -- Molai and Santosh -- could
be in imminent danger of execution in India.
On 27 October 1999 the Supreme Court of India rejected an appeal against the
death sentences awarded to the men by a trial court in Madhya Pradesh in 1998,
and subsequently upheld by the Madhya Pradesh High Court, for the rape and
murder of a 16-year-old girl. The men now only have the possibility of a clemency
appeal heard by the President.
The Supreme Court in its order of 27 October reportedly held that the crime
fell into the category of "rarest of rare" (see background below). Molai (a
jail guard) and Santosh (a convict) were found guilty of raping and murdering
the 16-year daughter of a jail official.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally as an extreme
form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and a violation of the right
to life, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other
international human rights instruments.
India's Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty can only be applied
in the "rarest of rare" cases, although these are not further defined. The
use of the death penalty in India thus depends to a large degree on how individual
judges interpret this phrase. The lack of clear guidelines about the
circumstances in which the death penalty should be imposed means that judges
must exercise great discretion in capital cases. On average a dozen executions
are carried out in India every year for criminal offences -- mainly murder.
Most of those executed are poor and illiterate.
Amnesty International is also concerned at calls for the scope of the death
penalty in India to be widened to include other offences, including rape.
Statements made by the previous government indicating that it would propose
reforms to include the death sentence for rape have recently been repeated
by the Minister of Home Affairs following elections last month.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in English or your own language:
- acknowledging the grave nature of the crimes for which Molai and Santosh
have been convicted, and expressing sympathy for the relatives of his victim;
- expressing unconditional opposition to the death penalty as a violation of
the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment and emphasising that the death penalty has never been
shown to have a special deterrent effect.
- calling on the President to make use of his right to exercise clemency to
commute the death sentence against Molai and Santosh;
- expressing concern at statements made by the Government of India to extend
the scope of the death penalty to crimes of rape;
Shri R.K. Narayanan
President of India
Office of the President
New Delhi 110 004, India
Telegrams: President, New Delhi, India
Faxes: + 91 11 301 7290
Salutation: Dear President