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Shocking majority of death sentenced are poor (and can’t afford a good lawyer to save them from the noose)

Death row convicts in India are mostly from the backward classes, religious minorities and economically weaker sections, reported the Times of India.

93.5 per cent of those sentenced to death for terror offences in the last 15 years were Dalits or religious minorities while 75 per cent of the total death row convicts were from the economically weaker sections, revealed the Law Commission of India’s interview with 373 death row convicts.

The commission, which is currently working on a proposal to abolish the death penalty from India’s statute books, had commissioned the practical study by national law university students who conducted the field interviews.

The study also revealed that 23 per cent of the interviewed convicts weren’t schooled, and most of the rest didn’t complete secondary education, weren’t allowed to attend court proceedings in their own cases and had inadequate interaction with the lawyers on the case.

Death row convicts in India are not permitted to do prison labour, are lodged in separate barracks and have psychological and other health care issues.

Only 1 per cent of undertrials can afford legal representation, senior advocate Prashant told TOI, while human rights lawyer and Supreme Court advocate on record Colin Gonsalves commented that the finding of 75 per cent arrived at in the study was the absolute bare minimum.

Between 2000 and 2015, 1,617 were sentenced to death by the trial courts – 42 per cent of them from UP and Bihar. The conviction rate at the stage of high courts and the SC dropped to 17.5 per cent and 4.9 per cent respectively as most death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment or acquitted, added the TOI report.

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