To keep him safe, the state has already spent more than Rs 50 crore. In his execution, the budget permitted by an archaic law is only Rs 50.
Not just this, the confirmation of death sentence for Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab, for his role in the 26/11 attacks in the city that left 166 dead, has turned the spotlight on other quirks of a set of rules framed well over a century ago.
The course to be taken and interpretation of the rules is further mired in a fog as their use is rare. The last execution in Maharashtra was in Pune's Yerawada jail when Sudhakar Joshi was sent to the gallows in August 1995 in a murder case.
Now 17 years later, the hanging ropes are likely to measured and tested again whenever the execution date is set for the terrorist after a few more legal procedures are completed. The jail superintendent has to inform Kasab that he has seven days to make a written mercy plea. Then the ball will be in the Maharashtra governor's and, further on, the President's court.
If the pleas are turned down, the execution goes ahead. Meeran Borwankar, inspector general (prisons), told TOI that there is no execution fee or payment to be made to the hangman. (More in box)
Executions in India, one of the 96 countries that still allow death penalty, are governed by laws that date back to 1894. The Prisons Act in India, though amended from time to time, is the principle Act which empowers states to make rules for execution.
Four decades ago, the state adopted the Maharashtra Prisons (prisoners sentenced to death) Rule, 1971, that heavily borrows from its parent.
A defining book on the rights of prisoners written by a Bombay high court lawyer, A B Puranik, in 1992 notes how prison laws in Maharashtra lay down that, except as provided in sub-rules, "the body of an executed convict shall be taken out of the prison with all solemnity". Where possible, the body must be taken in a municipal hearse or ambulance hired to transport the body to the jail cremation or burial ground. The jail "superintendent may incur a reasonable expenditure up to Rs 50 for the transport and disposal of the body".
Once a convict is sentenced to death, the prison staff has to first measure the neck and weight of the convict. It all boils down to height, weight and neck measurement with the height measured very accurately to the angle of the jaw immediately below his left ear. The height and weight are scientifically used to drop the rope to a certain height during the execution which is open to a dozen male relatives of the convict and other 'spectators' allowed by the jail superintendent. Kasab has no relatives in India. And while a bullet wound, like the many Kasab delivered on 26/11, would perhaps kill instantly, the prison rules say even after hanging the condemned convict must be left suspended for half an hour and till a medical officer certifies him dead.
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