Punishment of the guilty has been prevailing for a long time. ‘Punishment’ is the amount of compensation that a person pays for society and the victim, depending on the extent of the offense committed by that person for committing an act in contrary to the accepted norms of society or for an act which is considered as an offense within a recognized legal system. Under the provisions of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka, a person convicted of a crime is punishable by death, imprisonment with light or hard labor, whipping, loss of property and fine.
The death penalty is considered the maximum penalty and he is liable to be sentenced to death in accordance with the Penal Code if convicted of a serious offense of murder and rape and possession of more than 2 grams of heroin. In 1802, the government of Frederick North abolished the various inhumane methods of capital punishment during the monarchy and legalized the death penalty by hanging.
According to Article 285 of the Criminal Procedure Code No. 15 of 1979, the convict shall be hanged until his death on a date and is placed to be determined by the President of this country. According to Article 286 of the Constitution, a person shall be detained in a prison under the custody of a Superintendent of Prisons until the relevant sentence is carried out.
Following these facts, we inquired from the Department of Prisons about the number of inmates currently on death row in Sri Lankan prisons and their status.
Accordingly, the total number of inmates in prisons in the country as at August 30, 2020 is 29,391. Of these, 1283 were convicts sentenced to death. Of those, 765 have so far filed appeals. The following is a list of convicts sentenced to death by a Sri Lankan court from 2015 to the end of 2019.
Here we focused mostly on the cost to the government of the death row inmates. According to the Department of Prisons, the daily expenditure per inmate who has been sentenced to death is 645.42 rupees. That amount is 235,580 rupees per person per year. Accordingly, the annual expenditure incurred by the government on all prisoners who have been sentenced to death is Rs. 302,249,140.00.
The problem here is how practical it is today to impose the death penalty in order to bring criminal justice to the satisfaction of the society. This is because the maintenance of these detainees is indirectly funded by taxes paid to the government by the general public. The prison already has a goal of producing at least 50 percent of their daily needs by using prison inmates for agricultural and industrial activities, but does not involve death row inmates in such activities.
The last time the death penalty was carried out in the country was on June 23, 1976, and although the death penalty has been imposed on convicts for 44 years now, it does not appear that steps will be taken to implement it in practice. Governments in power from 1976 to the present have also raised the issue from time to time, but no authority has been able to take any positive action.