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India high court rejects bid to replace hanging with lethal injection

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of India [official website] on Monday rejected a bid to replace executions by hanging with lethal injections. The suit was brought by rights advocate Ashok Kumar Walia who maintained that hanging executions were cruel and painful [Times of India report]. Chief Justice Balakrishan and Justice Sathasivam [official profiles] questioned the allegation that hanging causes more pain than lethal injection, pointing out that hanging causes instant death by severing the spinal cord. The court also noted that the death penalty in India is rarely ordered and that other countries employ a variety of methods for executions. The presiding judges advised Walia to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty instead of a particular method.

The country's last exercise of the death penalty occurred in 2004 when a defendant was hanged for the rape and murder of a school student. Although executions in India are rare, the Asian Centre for Human Rights [advocacy website] reported last year that more than 7,000 people died between 2002 and 2007 while in the custody of Indian police. The advocacy group called for the country's National Human Rights Commission [official website] to create a special department [JURIST report] to investigate such deaths, many of which allegedly involved torture. In 2006, an Indian police officer was sentenced to death [BBC report] for killing a man in police custody. A 2004 survey [PTI report] found that 80 percent of Indian judges favored adding lethal injection as a method for carrying out executions.

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