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It’s rare that the executioner is the one on the wanted list, but in India this week there is a hunt on. The perversity of advertising such a post, really struck me. Exactly what sort of essential skills and experience would be requisite? You can get a disturbing insight into the mindset of a professional killer, by reading this interview with a Saudi state executioner who claims to “love his job” here.

This search for an executioner comes shortly after the announcement that India is to carry out the country’s first execution since 2004. The state of Assam, where one of the two men who has had his petition for mercy rejected lives, no longer employs an executioner, so rare is the need.

On Friday, President Pratibha Patil accepted the Home Ministry's recommendations to reject the mercy petitions of death row prisoners Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar and Mahendra Nath Das, paving the way for the death sentences to go ahead. This would mark the end of an encouraging seven-year death-penalty-free period, and would be a serious step backwards for human rights in the country. However, it is not a done deal yet. Media reports today have focussed on the urgent scramble to engage an executioner. Thus far, without success.

India voted against the resolution for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, 2008 and 2010, but President Patil has commuted the death sentences of 20 prisoners since November 2009.

India would be bucking the global trend towards ending executions, numbers of which continue to decline globally, if they were to go ahead. Perhaps this delay might give sufficient pause for reflection to President Patil, and she might reconsider. I can think of few jobs which more warrant the axe than that of executioner- along with jouster and lamplighter- it belongs in the history books. You can read about other obsolete jobs here.

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