By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) - In nearly two decades, Indian courts awarded highest number of death penalties last year, a new report has found.
According to The Indian Express, a local daily, the report -- Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistics Report 2018 -- released by New Delhi-based National Law University said that courts pronounced 162 death sentences in 2018 which are highest in a year since 2000.
India is one of the countries where awarding capital punishment is legal. In 2017, Indian courts had pronounced capital punishment to 108 persons.
The daily noted that rise in death penalties could be a result of an amended law, under which the capital punishment can be given to those convicted of rape and gang rape of girls below the age of 12.
On December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old student was brutally assaulted with iron rods and gangraped in a private bus in the capital New Delhi -- a horrific crime that roused anger in India. The then government set up a panel which suggested changes in Indian Panel Code (IPC), which were subsequently adopted by Indian Parliament in August 2018.
According to the report, eight of 29 Indian states -- Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura -- did not award any death sentence during this period.
The report notes that most of the death penalties were awarded by trail courts which can be challenged in Supreme Court of India.
Last year, the Supreme Court had commuted death sentences to life imprisonment in 11 of the 12 cases it heard, the daily noted.
The spike in capital punishment has triggered a debate in India.
Rebecca John, an Indian lawyer, told The Wire, a local news website: “This scheme is a serious abnegation of all constitutional principles settled over decades by courts of law, and poses a direct threat to the fundamental right to life and liberty.”