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
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