Hanging, which is mostly seen in movies, is one of the world’s oldest forms of punishment. As of now, it is the only procedure used to legally punish death in India. But do you know the complete procedure followed before the hanging and what the hangman whispers in the ear of the convict? If not, then here are the complete details of the hanging punishment.
Death warrants and procedures
The death penalty is extremely rare because most courts rule on life sentences. In 1983, the Supreme Court gave clear directions that hanging should only be used as a procedure for a death sentence in the “rarest of rare” cases.
When a court rules to hang a convict, the death warrant is issued. A death warrant that mentions the date and time of the hanging is issued as per the CrPC. It is also called the “black warrant” because of the black colour of its border. After the warrant is received, further procedures are followed as per the jail manual.
It is necessary to follow some procedures, without which the hanging is considered incomplete. The jail superintendent informs the convicted person and his family 14 days before the hanging. He must also inform the hanging details to the administration. If the jail has no arrangement to hang a convicted person, he is shifted to another jail. There are up to 30 jails in India that have the option of hanging the prisoners.
The 14-day period is given to the convicted so that they can mentally prepare and meet with their family members and others if they want to. This time can be utilised to prepare the will or get counselling. He is also given a chance to make a last wish and can demand the presence of a priest, maulvi, or father of the church during the hanging.
The convict is shifted to an isolated cell, and the jail superintendent is in charge of making all arrangements. For the gallows and well-making, the height and weight of the person are measured. The noose used for hanging is brought from Buxar jail of Bihar. The prisoners of Bihar only make the noose. The width of the rope used is almost 1.5 inches.
If we talk about the day and timing of the hanging, the convict is never hanged on public holidays. The convict is generally hanged in the morning before sunrise. There is a variation in timing according to the season and the jail manual, but mostly the time for hanging is 6 a.m., 7 a.m., and 8 a.m.
The hangman arrives two days before the day of hanging. A day before the hanging, the sack filled with sand, weighing almost 1.5 times the weight of the convicted, is hung so as to confirm the feasibility of the gallows and the noose.
The jail manual categorically says that no other prisoner is allowed to witness the execution, and neither should the convict who is to be hanged be made to see the gallows. According to the jail manual, “Prisoners of all categories shall be kept locked up until the execution is over and the body is removed from the prison.”
Moments before the hanging, jail superintendent visits the cell of convict, and confirms his identity. The warrant is then read aloud to the convict in his or her mother tongue. On the day of hanging, the jail superintendent is accompanied by the deputy superintendent, six wardens, a doctor, a magistrate, and a hangman.
After the identification, the superintendent leaves the cell. In the presence of the deputy superintendent, the prisoner is dressed up in a black outfit and taken to the hanging room. From here, the hangman takes the convict to the gallows.
Handed over to the hangman, his legs and hands are tied together, and his face is covered with the black cotton cloth. On the exact time decided, the superintendent signals to pull the lever, the hangman pulls the lever, and the prisoner is hanged till death.
But the interesting part is that before pulling the lever, the hangman whispers something into the ears of the person to be hanged. He speaks 11 words: “Ram Ram, mujhe maaf karna mai, apna farz nibha raha hoon” (Ram Ram, and forgive me; I am just fulfilling my duty). Ram Ram is replaced by “salaam” or some other greetings according to the religion of the person.
After almost half an hour, the doctor examines her and pronounces dead. The body is then untied and sent for post-mortem. The superintendent sends the warrant to the Inspector General (IG) by varying the death, and the IG in turn sends it to the court that issued the warrant as a proof of the execution of the order.
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