Here's why death row convicts in India are executed before sunrise

Though sentence of capital punishment is rarely carried out, early hours of day or the time before sunrise is preferred over other hours for executing death row convicts

In India and many other countries, execution of convicts sentenced to death is usually carried out in the early hours of the day. Capital punishment is awarded in the rarest of rare cases to the convicts who have committed a crime of grievous nature. Implementing the death sentence follows an established protocol, one of which is the fixed time of execution.

So the question arises – why are the early hours of the day or the time before sunrise preferred over the rest of the day for executing death row convicts?

Here are four possible reasons as to why this tradition is adopted by jail authorities.

1. To spare the mental agony of making him wait in the day

As a new day begins at midnight, if the prisoner is made to wait for being executed for say, in the afternoon or evening, it would definitely subject the prisoner to intense mental agony. So, he is woken up a few hours before execution so that he can complete his physical chores and offer prayers. Thereafter, he is sent to the gallows. Hanging is followed by a medical examination, entries in various registers, notes, and approval and then handing over the body to the inmate’s family. Being executed in the early morning would also give his kin enough time to take his body to his native place and prepare for his last rites.

Also Read: Why Judges break the nib of their pen after awarding a death sentence

2. Smooth execution

During early hours of a new day, as the other general prisoners are in deep sleep, it gives the staff ample time to focus on execution without facing any possible hindrance. It will also ensure that the other routine activities are not affected.

3. What law says

According to Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), “The execution shall take place early in the morning before it gets bright. The latest time of the day for different seasons will be in accordance with orders passed separately by the Government.”

4. Hanging of a person at times stoke huge controversy

In the eyes of the law, the prisoner may have been a convicted criminal but for a section of society, he could be seen differently. To restrain the effect of the hanging on the collective conscience of the society and to limit its trauma, execution is carried out before sunrise.

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Execution before sunrise is a tradition we inherited from British era. While in those days some of the greatest revolutionaries were also hanged by Britishers, now the criminals convicted in heinous crimes are sent to the gallows.

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