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Reena Mary George

T: +43 1 4277-22350
E: reena.mary.george@univie.ac.at


"Death Penalty in India: Perception of the Prisoner on Death Row"

Supreme Court of India in its 1983 judgment upheld capital sentence for the rarest of rare crimes, a decision that clearly warrants a review.  The barbaric relic of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth cannot be accommodated in a civilised society especially when it seems to be espoused by the state, the welfare state.  In view of the above, the use of death penalty in India and elsewhere is increasingly becoming an obstacle to the realisation of justice and development of human rights. The Indian Penal Code, judgments of the Indian Courts and the rules of the Prison manuals talks about death penalty and its execution; however, the perception of the prisoner on death row has never been studied.  Nonetheless, this exactly formulates to be my main research questions:  How do the prisoners on death row perceive themselves and their situation? How do the prisoners perceive their own dignity as a prisoner on death row? The need for information on the death penalty is not limited to the question of abolition. This information is crucial as it enables citizens to properly debate the core issue in question – the relevance and effectiveness of the death penalty in present-day India. Lack of information has led to a virtual guessing game in the media and the public sphere ensuring that the debate on the relevance of the death penalty in society is largely limited to an emotional and reactionary plane. The absence of credible information is further reflected by the lack of any serious scholarship on the use of the death penalty in India.  

The main objective of this study is to explore how the prisoners on death row perceive themselves and their situation. Secondly to study how the prisoners perceive their own dignity as a prisoner on death row. This study will employ an integrated approach using both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Data from the prisoners will be collected in two phases. Phase one will be an open interview with the prisoners on their own perception as prisoners on death row. The second phase will seek to map the procedure leading to death, their experience on social and legal states as prisoners on death row and their perception on the treatment they receive.  Expert interviews with key informants will be conducted using an interview guide which will be used to do an in-depth exploration of the situation of death penalty in India.


Ms. Reena Mary George is a Professional Social Worker. She completed her Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai, India. She has worked in the Criminal Justice System both as a student Social Worker and as a professional. Her dissertation in MSW was called “Right based approach on the situation of children of recidivists’ women prisoners”. During her dissertation, she interacted with many Recidivist Prisoners. She has worked as a researcher in the field of Health and Human Rights. She is also a Human Rights Activist. She was employed as a Senior Research Associate at Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. She worked on a Research Project in a study on “Health Status of Women Prisoners in Maharashtra”. While working at CEHAT, she did a part-time Post-Graduate Diploma in Human Rights. Her dissertation “Death Penalty: A Human Rights Perspective” was a study on the impact of death sentence on the social, mental and physical being of the inmates faced with capital punishment. After the research project at CEHAT, she joined Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) as a Programme Officer in the Criminal Justice Initiative. At HRLN her task was to engage in fact-finding in case of custodial death and to conduct research in prisons and police lock-ups. She has delivered lectures on topics like Fact-finding, Capital Punishment and Right to life at the University of Mumbai for the Post-Graduate Diploma in Human Rights  

Research Interests
Prisoners rights, Torture and impunity

Positions/Work Experience/HR Experience
Programme Officer – Human Rights Law Network, Mumbai

Senior Research Associate – Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes, Mumbai

Project Director – India Sponsorship Committee, Mumbai

Leni Chaudhuri and Reena Mary George, “Condemned twice”. Combat Law Sep-Dec 2009 Volume 8, Issue 5 & 6


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