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Nirbhaya case: Why execution of four convicts is a challenge for Tihar jail

Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case gathered the nation's attention in 2012 and the furore is still alive. The four convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case are nearing execution. Reports also say execution ropes have been prepared to hang the convicts of the Nirbhaya gangrape case. However, collective hanging of the four convicts has posed some challenges before the Tihar jail authorities.

Vani Mehrotra Vani Mehrotra @vani_mehrotra
New Delhi Updated on: December 13, 2019 14:30 IST
Nirbhaya case convicts
Image Source : PTI PHOTO

Why execution of Nirbhaya gangrape convicts is a challenge for Tihar jail 

The four convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case are to be hanged at the same time. This, however, has come up as a challenge before the authorities at the Tihar jail because this is the first case that requires four accused to be hanged at the same time. According to the regular functioning of the Tihar jail, four convicts have never been hanged together on the same frame. 

One of the challenges is if any of the convicts fall sick or unconscious due to anxiety, the execution has to be called off. But, sources have said it is mandatory to hang all the four convicts together. 

Sources have also said the authorities are now testing a new technique to allow all four nooses to be fitted onto the existing gallows. Some changes in design and a test to see whether it can hold the weight of four people will be required. 

Two trial runs have already been conducted till now to check if the frame can hold the weight of the convicts for at least three hours. A team of jail officials has now been formed to inspect the entire restructuring process.

Nirbhaya case convicts to be hanged: A challenge for Tihar

Firstly, it is mandatory to hang the four convicts together. Secondly, the gallows at the Tihar jail allows only two persons to be hanged together. The authorities have to leave the convicts hanging for at least 30 minutes until a doctor declares them dead. If only two convicts are hanged at a time, it would be difficult to control the behaviour of the other two convicts during that period.

Here's how a convict is treated before execution 

Normally, there are some steps that are followed in the execution process of any convict. Not many are aware of how the convict is treated by the jail authorities ahead of their hanging. 

- The convict first takes a bath in the morning and wears a black cotton suit

- The authorities of the jail then serve breakfast to the convict
- The convict is then taken to the gallow with his hands tied at the back
- A black mask is put to cover the face of the convict
- The magistrate then reads out the execution order of the convict
- Hangman takes the convict to the pedestal, where his legs are tied
- The liver is pulled following an order by the jail superintendent 
- Body of the convict is left hanging till about 30 minutes
- The body is taken down after a doctor confirms the death of the convict

New rules on execution

A new set of rules has now been framed by the jail authorities, which grants some privileges to the convict(s). 

- Family of the convict is informed as soon as the mercy plea is rejected and execution is confirmed
- Execution can be done within 14 days of the rejection of the mercy plea 
- The convict is shifted to a well-lit solitary confinement cell
- Family of the convict is brought to the cell for a last meeting
- Last will of the convict is recorded and his personal belongings are handed over to the family
- The convict is served his choice of meal before execution
- The convict is also allowed to attend religious programs during these 14 days 

Execution of Nirbhaya gangrape convicts - What Tihar says 

The gallows and the hanging courtyard at Tihar jail were constructed during the early 1950s. The gallows consist of a metal crossbar erected on two concrete pillars, on which loops have been made for the hanging rope. According to them, the metal bar tends to weaken due to weathering. 

Sources at the jail have also confirmed the preparation of eight execution ropes by prisoners. In the making of this rope of soft cotton, butter or wax is used to keep it soft and yet strong.

The four convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape case have been shifted to jail number 3. All four have been allocated different cells. Each convict has been allowed to meet his family members. 

A Delhi court will hear on Wednesday a plea seeking issuance of death warrants against four people convicted in the Nirbhaya gang rape-and-murder case.

Additional Sessions Judge Satish Kumar Arora on Friday deferred the matter till December 18, noting that the review petition of one of the convicts was pending before the Supreme Court for Tuesday.

"At least, I have to wait till the time appeal for review is pending," the judge said.

"My view is that once the review is pending before the SC, let's wait for the outcome," the judge said. "Since his (Akshay Singh) review petition is pending before SC for December 17, I would adjourn it for December 18."

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