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UA 362/91 - India: death penalty: Raj Gopal Nayyar

, N° d'index: ASA 20/045/1991

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 20/45/91
Distr: UA/SC
UA 362/91 Death Penalty 30 October 1991
Amnesty International is concerned that Raj Gopal Nayyar faces imminent
execution following the Supreme Court's rejection on 29 October 1991 of his
wife's petition for commutation. In the petition his wife claimed that the
death sentence was "a barbaric and inhuman punishment". Raj Gopal Nayyar was
sentenced to death for killing his father and two step-brothers. The murders
took place in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, although the exact date and place
are unknown.
Raj Gopal Nayyar previously escaped death on 23 October 1991 when the
hangman fainted as he was about to carry out his first execution. Nayyar's
execution was rescheduled for 26 October but it was delayed pending the outcome
of the Supreme Court petition.
The High Court had earlier dismissed a petition filed by his wife asking
for the death sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment because his hanging
had been delayed too long. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal and his wife's
petition on 29 October. The President Ramaswamy Venkataraman also turned down
a mercy petition seeking Presidential clemency.
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. Most
of those executed are poor and illiterate.
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 these.
Although India's higher courts have ruled that the death penalty can
only be applied in the "rarest of rare" cases, the number of offenses carrying
the death penalty has been extended in recent years. In 1984, several judges
of the Supreme Court ruled that a death sentence, if not carried out for more
than two years, should be automatically commuted to life imprisonment. Other
Supreme Court judges, however, have ruled that no specific time limit could
be set for converting a sentence of death into life imprisonment on grounds
of delay in execution.
There have been reports in the press that the government is considering
extending the death penalty to persons convicted of kidnapping.
Page 2 of UA 362/91
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Telegrams/telexes/airmail letters:
- explaining that Amnesty International opposes the death penalty on the
grounds that it violates the right to life and the right not to be subjected
to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
- urging that the death sentence of Raj Gopal Nayyar be commuted to life
- pointing out that the last minute postponement of the earlier scheduled
execution adds a further element of cruelty to the punishment;
- 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
1) His Excellency Dear President
President Ramaswamy Venkataraman
Office of the President
Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi 110 004, India
Telegrams: President Venkataraman, New Delhi, India
Telexes: 31 66427 RBND IN
2) His Excellency Dear Governor
Mr Girish Saxena
Governor of Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir
Telegrams: Governor Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar, India
3) Mr M. M. Jacob Dear Minister
Minister of State for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
North block
New Delhi 110 001
Telegrams: Home Affairs Minister Jacob, New Delhi, India
Telexes: 3161879 FRGN IN ) via Ministry of
3161880 FRGN IN ) Foreign Affairs
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of India in your country
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat
or your section office, if sending appeals after 11 December 1991.

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