Trends in the use of capital punishment
Several trends could be observed with regard to capital punishment during the past few decades. These may be described as under:
The first trend is towards the abolition of death penalty. In about 25 countries, it has already been abolished by law or tradition, while in many other countries; movements to abolish it are very strong. In quite a few Islamic countries, however, there are no signs yet to do away with it.
Secondly, the overall number of capital crimes in being steadily reduced. For example, in England in the eighteenth century, there were more than 200 capital crimes for which capital punishment was awarded but in 1952 there were only 4 such crimes.
Today, it has been totally abolished. In India, there are seven crimes for which capital punishment is prescribed, but, in practice it is awarded only in murder cases. In the Unites States, capital punishment is prescribed for eight crimes but most of the states award it only for one or two crimes.
Thirdly, torturous methods are not used for giving effect to death penalty. Swift and painless methods are generally used in execution.
Fourthly, capital punishment is not given in public. The number and type of persons to be present at the time of execution has been restricted by law and administrative regulations.
Fifthly, some safeguard measures have been provided for miscarriage of justice.
Sixthly, certain types of persons are totally excluded from getting capital punishment, like children below a certain specified age, old persons above a certain age, pregnant women, and insane persons.
Lastly, the trend is towards reduction in the number of executions. In India, for example, the number of persons actually hanged has come down from about 200 in the early 1960s to less than 50 in the early 1990s.
In the United States, while 155 persons were executed in 1930, only 62 persons were given death penalty in 1953 (Caldwell: 413). Between 1916 and March 1994, only 237 executions were carried out in America (The Hindustan Times, August 5, 1994).