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Who will hang Ajmal Kasab?

By Vicky Nanjappa
Last updated on: May 06, 2010 14:42 IST
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Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested during the terror siege on Mumbai in November, 2008, was awarded the death sentence by a special court on Thursday.

Kasab is likely to be executed at the Yerawada Prison in Pune.

A person sentenced to death in Maharashtra is usually executed at the Yerawada prison or the Nagpur prison. But there is no hangman to carry out executions now. Jhadhav, the sole hangman in Maharashtra, retired in 1995.

Though the stipulated retirement age for a hangman is 58 years, the government has bent the rules due to the difficulty in finding candidates for such a job. In special cases, hangmen are recalled from retirement to carry out executions.

Prison authorities in Belgaum jail in Karnataka told that the hangmen who have retired are extremely reluctant to take up the job again. "It is an extremely difficult job. Most of them are very remorseful and don't want to come back," they said.

Prabhat Mullick, the sole hangman available for the job, has not received an official approval by the authorities so far.

Prabhat is the son of Nata Mullick, the hangman who carried out the execution of Dhananjoy Chatterjee in 2004. Chatterjee, who raped and murdered a 14-year-old girl, was hanged in 2004. No convict has been executed in India since Chatterjee's hanging.

Mullick's family has been in this business since ages; his grandfather also worked as a hangman under the British regime.

But authorities at the Yerawada jail in Pune are not worried about the unavailability of hangmen. "We have faced difficulties in the execution of 11 convicts in the Yerawada jail due to the lack of a hangman. But the case will be different for Kasab. He is considered the biggest enemy of the nation and there will be many who would want to hang this deadly criminal," said prison officials.

It is a tough job, officials point out, as there can be no room for error. "Right from preparing the noose to pulling the lever, utmost care has to be taken. The noose cannot be too tight since the convict should not feel any pain. There is a specific manner in which the noose has to be knotted for this purpose. The manner in which the noose is knotted depends on the weight of the person. The lever cannot be pulled very hard as it may severe the head of the person from the body," explained the officials.

They added, "Great care is taken to prepare the noose. Ghee, soap and squashed banana is applied to the rope that is made out of cotton yarn in order to make it smooth. Apart from learning how to carry out an execution, other checks have to be in place before a person can be handed over the job. Only men are employed for this job and the candidate has to be above 5.4 inches tall."

Other than the morbid nature of the job, the meager salary also acts as a deterrent. The hangman only gets a paltry amount of Rs 150 to Rs 200 for each execution. He is not an employee of the state government and doesn't get any related benefits. Though recommendations have often been made to address this issue, none of them have been addressed or implemented.

Major jails across India face an acute shortage of trained hangmen. Karnataka jails have not employed a hangman since the past two decades. In Madhya Pradesh, the hangman who was supposed to execute Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, died in 2009.

At the Tihar jail, hangman Mammu Singh was arrested in connection with a loan default case, and now he has sworn off the job.  Mammu Singh had carried out the execution of Kehar Singh in 1989, who was awarded the death sentence for plotting the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi.

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Vicky Nanjappa