UA 242/92 - India: death penalty: Sukhdev Singh alias Sukha and Harjinder Singh alias Jinda
EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 20/41/92
UA 242/92 Death Penalty 28 July 1992
India: Sukhdev Singh alias Sukha and Harjinder Singh alias Jinda
Amnesty International is concerned that Sukhdev Singh and Harjinder Singh face
execution after the Supreme Court upheld their death sentence on 16 July 1992.
Sukhdev Singh and Harjinder Singh, both members of the Sikh community, were
sentenced to death by a Trial Court for their role in the assassination of
General A.S. Vaidya, former Chief of the Armed Forces, in January 1986. They
reportedly confessed to the crime and have not filed any appeal against their
conviction or the severity of the sentence.
Following conflict between the Indian army and Sikh militants demanding a
separate Sikh state in Punjab, the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, put
General Vaidya in charge of "Operation Bluestar" to flush militants out of
the Golden Temple, the main Sikh Shrine in Amritsar, in 1984. During this
operation, an estimated 1,000 people were killed. Many were armed Sikh
militants, but some were innocent bystanders or pilgrims.
India's higher courts have ruled that the death penalty can only be applied
in the "rarest of rare" cases. In upholding the sentence of death for Sukhdev
Singh and Harjinder Singh, the Supreme Court concluded that this case was "the
rarest of the rare", and that the death penalty was "unassailable". They drew
attention to the lack of remorse or repentance shown by the two men and to
their apparent pride in having killed
General A S Vaidya for his role in Operation Bluestar.
The threat of the death penalty has never been shown to prevent politically
motivated crimes. The prospect of execution for those convinced of the
legitimacy of their cause can instead encourage political martyrdom. Public
officials responsible for fighting terrorism have repeatedly pointed out that
executions are likely to increase political violence rather than prevent it.
The Indian Constitution protects the right to life. Yet on average over a dozen
executions are carried out in India every year for criminal offenses. The death
penalty is usually carried out by hanging from the neck until dead. An attempt
to challenge this method of execution failed before the Supreme Court, which
stated in a 1983 judgement that hanging did not involve torture, barbarity,
humiliation or degradation. Amnesty International believes it involves all
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Telegrams/telexes and airmail letters
- urging that the death sentence of Sukhdev Singh and Harjinder Singh be commuted
to life imprisonment;
- 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 and degrading
treatment or punishment as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human
Page 2 of UA 242/92
- pointing out that the death penalty has never been shown to prevent
politically motivated crime; that it may encourage martyrdom and increase
political crime, rather than prevent it.
1) His Excellency
President Ramaswamy Venkataraman
Office of the President
New Delhi 110 004, India
Telegrams: President Venkataraman, New Delhi, India
Telexes: 31 66427 RBND IN
Salutation: Dear President
2) Mr M. M. Jacob
Minister of State for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
New Delhi 110 001
Telegrams: Home Affairs Minister Jacob, New Delhi, India
Telexes: 3161879 FRGN IN ) via Ministry of
3161880 FRGN IN ) Foreign Affairs
Salutation: Dear Minister
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of India accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat
or your section office, if sending appeals after 8 September 1992.