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Death row inmates have right to die with dignity; abolish hanging: PIL in Supreme Court

A PIL has recommended lethal injection, shooting or electrocution as other alternatives to hanging.

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Death row inmates have right to die with dignity; abolish hanging: PIL in Supreme Court
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A public interest litigation (PIL) has asked the Supreme Court to declare the Right to Die by Dignity as a fundamental right. 

The PIL comes weeks after a nine-judge bench, which included former Chief Justice of India Jagdish Singh Khehar, passed a ruling over an individual's right to privacy. It seeks to abolish death by hanging of convicts as it involves "prolonged pain and suffering" and states that "dying with dignity is part of right to life". 

The PIL further states that it wants the procedure of death (in the case of death penalty) to be replaced with intravenous lethal injection, shooting, electrocution or gas chamber which causes death in just few minutes. Currently, death row inmates are hanged.

These suggestions have sparked an old debate which has been lying dormant for decades. It was in 2003 when the nation's law commission filed a report stating that hanging caused intense physical pain and torture. 

In order to build its rationale, the PIL quotes horrific details of the hanging process in a high security prison in United States. 

"The day before an execution, a prisoner goes through a harrowing experience of being weighed, measured for length of drop to assure breaking of the neck, the size of the neck, body measurements etc. When the trap springs he dangles at the end of rope. There are times when the neck has not been broken and the prisoner chokes to death. His eyes pop almost out of his head, his tongue swells and protrudes from his mouth, his neck may be broken and the rope many at times take large portion of skins and flesh from the side of the face that the noose is on. He urinates, he defecates and droppings fall to the floor while witnesses look on. The prisoner remains dangling from the end of the rope for 8 to 14 minutes before the doctor, who has climbed up a small ladder and listen to his heartbeat with a stethoscope, pronounces him dead. A prison guard stands at the feet of the hanged person and holds the body steady, because during the first few minutes there is usually considerable struggling in an effort to breath"  (elucidation of ‘Warden Duffy of San Quentin') 

Even though the PIL seeks to to abolish death by hanging, it is up to the parliament to make amendments in the criminal procedure code. However, It will be interesting to see how the apex court will respond to this PIL where a case like this hasn't entered the court room since decades. 

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