Death sentence: India prepares to carry out first ever hanging of women convicts

Sisters Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit were convicted in 2001 of kidnapping and killing five children in Maharashtra

Delhi

India is confronting the prospect of hanging two sisters convicted of abducting and murdering young children – the first time it would have used the death sentence against women.

Renuka Shinde, 41, and 36-year-old Seema Gavit were convicted in 2001 of kidnapping and killing five children in the western state of Maharashtra. Originally charged with the deaths of 13 children, the court heard they kidnapped the youngsters as part of a begging operation and then brutally disposed of them when they were no longer of any use.

In 2004, an appeal court upheld their death sentence and two years later India’s Supreme Court did the same. Last month, India’s President, Pranab Mukherjee, rejected their appeal for clemency and at the weekend the so-called buffer zone – the period by when the government is obliged to inform all concerned parties of the president’s decision – expired.

The women, being held in Yerawada Central Jail near the city of Pune, could, in theory, be hanged at any time. Nobody from the jail was on Monday available for comment. Reports in the local media say officials there are engaged with the police, local officials and doctors on when the hanging should proceed.

Since 1983, the Indian courts have handed down the death penalty only for the “rarest of rare” cases. In recent years, just a handful of executions have been carried out, most notably that of Pakistani militant Ajmal Kasab, who was hanged in 2012 for his part in the 2008 attack on Mumbai.

In the aftermath of the 2012 Delhi gang-rape and murder of a young student, new laws were introduced to specify the death penalty for murder cases where rapes are involved. Records suggest no women have ever been executed.

The two sisters were originally detained in 1996, along with their mother, Anjana, and charged with the abduction and murder of children as part of a plot to obtain money from strangers. The courts were told the women would use the youngsters to extract sympathy from people, or else injure a child, causing it to cry out, if they needed to flee the scene. Their mother died while the case was ongoing.

“They very clearly executed their plans of kidnapping the children and the moment they were no longer useful, they killed them,” the Supreme Court said when it upheld the death sentence. “They had become a menace to society and the people in these cities were completely horrified and they could not even send their children to school.”

The lawyer of the two women, Manik Mulik, said that even though President Mukherjee had rejected the women’s plea for clemency he intended to file a fresh appeal this week. He said it was now 13 years since the women were originally convicted and sentenced.

President Mukherjee has rejected the sisters' appeal for clemency President Mukherjee has rejected the sisters' appeal for clemency (Getty)

“The ladies are going to file a petition this week in the [appeal court]. They will appeal to have the death penalty commuted because there has been such a delay,” Mr Mulik told The Independent. “There is too much delay. The Supreme Court has said if there is too much delay if can have a bad effect on the mental health of the convicted people.”

Debate is continuing as to whether or not the two women should be hanged. Dhananjay Mahadik, the member of parliament for Kolhapur, where the women were from, said he personally felt women in India should not face the death penalty.

Yet, Mr Mahadik, a member of the  Nationalist Congress Party, added: “The crime they were convicted of was very serious. They slaughtered those children, they did not kill them. They made them beg for them and they killed those children who knew nothing of this world. The court has ordered this and I agree.”

Campaigners against execution have in recent years been pushing the authorities in India to move away from handing down the death penalty, even though a number are ultimately commuted.

“The two women were convicted for crimes that the courts have determined meets the present Indian legal standard,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, of Human Rights Watch. “We believe that the death penalty should be abolished because it is inherently inhumane.”


She added: “We urge that all countries, including India, declare an immediate moratorium on capital punishment and work towards repealing it altogether.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

East15 Acting School: Finance and Contracts Officer

£20,781 to £24,057 per annum: East15 Acting School: The post involves general ...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager - Heli Ski Specialist

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: ACS qualified Domestic Gas Brea...

Recruitment Genius: Product Packager / Stock Assistant

£16250 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Product Packager / Stock Assistant is ...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen