Wednesday 13 February 2013

Crime and punishment-Convicts on the death row in Karnataka

This is the second in the series of Crime and Punishment. The first part was published on Tuesday.

The rejection of the mercy petition of four Veerappan associates currently housed in the death row cells in the Hindalga jail in Belgaum, Karnataka, is likely to send shivers down the spines of other prisoners on the death row,
As of now, there are 64 convicts, including two women, who are waiting for their turn to be hanged. These 64 are from all parts of the State and all of them have been shifted to the Hindalga Jail the day the Sessions Court which heard their cases awarded death sentences.
This is one of the exclusive and little known procedures followed by Jail authorities in Karnataka. The moment a Sessions Court pronounces a death sentence, he or she is automatically shifted to the Hindalga Jail. This is because this is the only jail in Karnataka to have gallows and the only designated place where convicts are hanged.
A few decades ago, Bangalore was the only other place where hangings took place. The gallows today are part of the Freedom Park  and I am quite amazed to see people sit on the platform housing the gallows and eating tidbits. Are they not aware that they are sitting on a human graveyard where several scores people have been hanged.
Anyway back to the Hindalga jail. The prisoners on the death row have the option of appealing to the Karnataka High Court and from there to the Supreme Court and finally the President of India. Till the disposal of their petition, they are settled in an exclusive cell meant to house such convicts.
As of now, 64 prisoners, including two women, who have been sentenced to death are awaiting their turn at the gallows.  Hindalga Central Jail. At least
40 of them have been on death row for more than 10 to 15 years. The convicts include four associates of the forest
brigand Veerappan, namely Gnanaprakasham, Simon, Meesekara Madaiah and Bilavendra whose mercy petitions have been rejected by the President of India. These four were involved in
the Palar blasts in 1993, in which 21 policemen were killed and 27 policemen injured. The two women prisoners are Laxmamma of the Dandupalya gang, and serial killer Cyanide Mallika. In Malika’s case, the Karnataka High Court modified her death sentence and commuted it to life imprisonment.
Others on the death row include the convicts of bomb blasts in Hyderabad and Bangalore -Sayyad Mohammad (45), Shaikh Hasim Ali (30), Sayyad Hassan (57), Abdul Rehman (53), A Husain Mulla (59), Ijahar Beg (34), Mohammad Saruddin (39), Mohammad Khadir (30), Sayyad Muniruddin (44), Sayyad Abbas Ali (28) and Mohammad Chandpasha (28).
Among the 62 are 38 who have been made to wait to know their fate for periods ranging from ten to fifteen years since their sentence. Of these 38, mercy petitions of six, including the associates of Veerappan (now rejected), have been pending with the President of India since 2004, two with the Governor of Karnataka, twenty appeals in Karnataka High Court, one in the Supreme Court and nine in the Dharwad circuit bench of the High Court.
The last convict to be hanged in Hindalga was in November 1983 when Hanumant Malla. He had murdered five persons. Since then there had not been a single execution in Karnataka. The hangman then too has retired from service.  
The prisoners on the death row in the hail, built by the British in 1923, are permitted to move about freely in an enclosure around the cells from 6.30 am to 8 am, from 10 am to noon and 4 pm to 6.30 pm.
All these prisoners are looked after well. They are also provided with newspapers and books.
The prison is a huge building and the jail premises covers 99 acres. It houses 857 inmates, including 388 under trials. It has 40 women, 17 convicts and 23 under trials.
The prison has three gallows and three persons can be hanged simultaneously.

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