The Definition of an Execution Warrant:
An execution warrant is also known as the Death warrant or a Black warrant.
The warrant is a kind of notice issued by a court of law addressed to the officer in charge of the jail. This is the kind of warrant that puts the execution of a convict, after a court of law has sentenced him to death, in motion. It contains all particulars regarding the execution, for instance, the name of the convict who has been sentenced to death by a court of law, the day on which the death penalty was awarded and the Court that awarded the sentence etc…
Therefore, in simple words, an execution warrant is a notice issued by the court that has awarded the death penalty to a convict and the warrant is addressed to the officer in charge of the jail specifying the time and place of execution of the convict who has been sentenced.
The legal provision for an Execution warrant:
Schedule II of the Code of Criminal Procedure[i] contains a list of 56 forms dealing with Summons to the Accessed, Summons to the witness, warrant of arrest, bond and bail-bond and several others, under which Form 42 specifically deals with ‘Warrant of Execution of a Sentence of Death’
It reads as follows,
To the Officer in charge of the Jail at ______ (name of jail)
WHEREAS ______ (name of the prisoner), the _ (1st, 2nd, 3rd, as the case may be) Prisoner in case No. ___ (case number) of the Calendar for 20_ at the Session held before me on the _ day of ___ (month), 20_, has been by a warrant of the Court, dated the _ day of __, committed to your custody under sentence of death; and whereas the order of the High Court at ____ (place of the high court) confirming the said sentence has been received by this Court;
This is to authorise and require you to carry the said sentence into execution by causing the said ___ (name of the prisoner) to be hanged by the neck until he be dead, at _____ (time and place of execution), and to return this warrant to the Court with an endorsement certifying that the sentence has been executed.
Dated, this _ day of ___, 20__.
(Seal of the Court) (Signature)
When can a Black warrant be issued?
A black warrant proceeding can be initiated only after the death row convict has exhausted all of his available options of filing mercy petitions.[ii] In the case of Shabnam v. Union of India[iii], the Supreme Court concluded that execution warrants must not be issued in haste and due consideration must be taken before issuing it. They held that in the current case, the death warrants issued by the Sessions Judge without waiting for the exhaustion of remedies of the convicts was done in haste. The Supreme Court’s vacation bench, comprising of Justices AK Sikri and UU Lalit, quashed the warrants for execution of death sentence for the said reason.
Content of the execution warrant:
1. Name of the Jail where the convict is to be executed.
2. The name of the prisoner who has been sentenced and who is to be executed.
3. The case number where the death sentence was awarded.
4. The date on which the execution warrant is issued.
5. Place of the High Court that confirmed the death sentence.
6. The date, time and place of the execution.
7. Signature of the Judge issuing the sentence.
8. Seal of the Court that awarded the death penalty.
Instances where an execution warrants have been issued:
1. In 2012, a 23 year old paramedic student who is referred to as ‘Nirbhaya’ was brutally raped and horrendously assaulted in a moving bus by six men in South Delhi. One of the six men committed suicide while in jail and the minor among the accused was tried and convicted by a Juvenile Justice Board. The Delhi High Court issued execution warrants against the rest of the 4 convicts and directed that they be hanged in the Tihar Jail.[iv] Against the said order of the Delhi High Court, the convicted men had filed a curative plea before the Supreme Court in exercise of their last available legal remedy against the execution of the awarded death sentence. The 5 judge bench in the Supreme Court comprising of Justices N V Ramana, Arun Mishra, R F Nariman, R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan dismissed the curative petitions filed by the convicts which brought them closer to the execution date of their death warrants.[v]
2. In the case of Surender Koli v. State of Uttar Pradesh[vi], an execution warrant was issued by the Trial Court against the infamous Surender Koli and Moninder Singh Pandher, the convicts in the Nithari Killings for the murder of Rimpa Halder, a 14 year old girl mercilessly raped and murdered. The Allahabad High Court affirmed the death sentence awarded to Koli while acquitted Moninder Singh Pandher. Surender Koli then filed a mercy petition before the Supreme Court which was rejected on the 15th of February 2011. He later filed a mercy petition before the President which was also rejected on the 27th July 2014.[vii] The Supreme Court confirmed his death sentence taking into consideration the brutality of his crimes and appointed an execution date.[viii]
Therefore, an Execution warrant is issued when a convict needs to be executed and Form 42 in the Second Schedule of the Code of Criminal Procedure, it is specified that such a convict shall be ‘hanged till death’. An Execution warrant or a black warrant may only be issued after the convict has exhausted all of their available legal remedies against the death sentence awarded to them. Once all the legal remedies have been exhausted, the Court of law may direct the jail authorities to continue with the execution by way of issuing an Execution warrant.
Edited by Pushpamrita Roy
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i]Code of Criminal Procedure, Schedule II, Form 42.
[iii]Shabnam vs Union Of India And Anr (2015 SCC OnLine SC 484)
[iv]Mukesh v. State (NCT of Delhi) [(2017) 3 SCC 719]
[vi]Surender Koli v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2011) 4 SCC 80
[viii]Surender Koli v. State of Uttar Pradesh, Review Petition (Criminal) No. 395 of 2014