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The annual Death Penalty in India Report by Project 39A of the National Law University, Delhi (NLU Delhi), published earlier this month, has found that “sexual violence against women and children is now at the heart of the debate on capital punishment in India.”
On the legislative side, the Death Penalty Report refers, inter alia, to the amendment made to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which now also provides for death penalty as the maximum punishment in cases of aggravated penetrative sexual assault, regardless of the gender of the victim.
Similar reference is also made to the Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which provides for the exclusive punishment of death penalty in cases involving rape by amending Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, following the gang rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinary doctor in Telangana in December.
Coupled with this, the report found that the highest rate of death sentences imposed in 2019 were for murders involving sexual offences, surpassing the rate on this count from 2018. This, despite a fall in the total number of trial court death penalty sentences from the previous year.