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Capital punishment in India

India retains capital punishment for a number of serious oences.[1] The Supreme Court of India has allowed
the death penalty to be carried out in 5 instances since
1995,[2][3][4][5] while a total of 26 executions have taken
place in India since 1991.[6]

listed a number of capital crimes. It remained in eect

after independence in 1947. The rst hanging in Independent India was that of Nathuram Godse and Narayan
Apte in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case on 15
November 1949.[17]

The Supreme Court in Mithu vs. State of Punjab struck

down Section 303 of the Indian Penal Code, which provided for a mandatory death sentence for oenders serving a life sentence.[7] The number of people executed
in India since independence in 1947 is a matter of dispute; ocial government statistics claim that only 52 people had been executed since independence. However,
research by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties indicates that the actual number of executions is in fact
much higher, as they located records of 1,422 executions in the decade from 1953 to 1963 alone.[8] A research by National Law University, Delhi on death row
convicts since 2000 has found that of the 1,617 prisoners sentenced to death by trial courts in India, the capital
punishment was conrmed in only 71 cases.[9][10] NLU
Delhi conrmed 755 executions in India since 1947.[11]
National Law University, Delhi examined 1,414 prisoners who were executed, in the available list of convicts
hanged in post-Independence since 1947.[12] According
to a report of the Law Commission of India (1967), the
total number of cases in which the sentence of death in
India was executed from 1953 to 1963 was 1,410.[13]

Under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, no person

can be deprived of his life except according to procedure
established by law.

1.1 Bachan Singh vs.


State of Punjab

The Constitution Bench judgment of Supreme Court of

India in Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab (1980) (2
SCC 684) made it very clear that Capital punishment
in India can be given only in rarest of rare cases.[3][18]
This judgement was in line with the previous verdicts
in Jagmohan Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (1973),
and then in Rajendra Prasad vs. State of Uttar Pradesh
(1979).[19][20][21] The Supreme Court of India ruled that
the death penalty should be imposed only in the rarest
of rare cases.[1] While stating that honour killings fall
within the rarest of the rare category, Court has recommended the death penalty be extended to those found
of committing "honour killings", which deserve to be
a capital crime.[22] The Supreme Court also recomIn December 2007, India voted against a United Nations mended death sentences to be imposed on police ocials
General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on who commit police brutality in the form of encounter
the death penalty.[14] In November 2012, India again up- killings.
held its stance on capital punishment by voting against An appeal led in 2013 by Vikram Singh and another
the UN General Assembly draft resolution seeking to ban person facing the death sentence questioned the constideath penalty.[15]
tutional validity of Section 364A of the Indian Penal
On 31 August 2015, the Law Commission of India sub- Code.
mitted a report to the government which recommended
the abolition of capital punishment for all crimes in India, excepting the crime of waging war against the nation 1.2 Other legislation
or for terrorism-related oences. The report cited several
factors to justify abolishing the death penalty, including In addition to the Indian Penal Code, a series of legislation
its abolition by 140 other nations, its arbitrary and awed enacted by the Parliament of India have provisions for the
application and its lack of any proven deterring eect on death penalty.
Sati is the burning or burying alive of any widow or
woman along with the body of her deceased husband or
any other relative or with any article, object or thing associated with the husband or such relative. Under The
1 History
Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 Part. II, Section 4(1), if any person commits sati, whoever abets the
In colonial India, death was prescribed as one of the pun- commission of such sati, either directly or indirectly, shall
ishments in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC),[7] which be punishable with death.[25]

The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was enacted to prevent the
commission of oences of atrocities against the members
of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. Under
Section 3(2)(i) of the Act, bearing false witness in a capital case against a member of a scheduled caste or tribe,
resulting in that persons conviction and execution, carries the death penalty[26] In 1989, the Narcotic Drugs and
Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act was passed which
applied a mandatory death penalty for a second oence
of large scale narcotics tracking.


2 Capital oences
3 Clemency in the Indian Constitution

After the award of the death sentence by a sessions court,

the sentence must be conrmed by a High Court to make
it nal. Once conrmed, the condemned convict has the
option of appealing to the Supreme Court. If this is not
possible, or if the Supreme Court turns down the appeal
In recent years, the death penalty has been imposed un- or refuses to hear the petition, the condemned person can
der new anti-terrorism legislation for people convicted of submit a 'mercy petition' to the President of India and the
terrorist activities.[1] On 3 February 2013, in response to Governor of the State.[46]
public outcry over a brutal gang rape in Delhi, the Indian
Government passed an ordinance which applied the death
penalty in cases of rape that leads to death or leaves the 3.1 Power of the President
victim in a "persistent vegetative state".[27][28] The death
penalty can also be handed down to repeat rape oenders
The present day constitutional clemency powers of the
under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.
President and Governors originate from the Government
In January 2014, a three-judge panel headed by Chief of India Act 1935 but, unlike the Governor-General, the
Justice of India Palanisamy Sathasivam commuted sen- President and Governors in independent India do not have
tences of 15 death row convicts, ruling that the inordi- any prerogative clemency powers.
nate and inexplicable delay is a ground for commuting
death penalty to life sentence.[29][30] Supreme Court of
India ruled that delays ranging from seven to 11 years in 3.1.1 Constitutional power
the disposal of mercy pleas are grounds for clemency.[31]
The same panel also passed a set of guidelines for the Article 72(1) of the Constitution of India states:
execution of a death row convict, which includes a 14- The President shall have the power to grant pardons, reday gap from the receipt of communication of the re- prieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to susjection of the mercy petition to the scheduled execution pend, remit or commute the sentence of any person condate, after going through the Shatrughan Chauhan vs. victed of any oence
Union of India case.[32][33][34] Subsequently, in February 2014, Supreme Court commuted death sentence of (a) in all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a
Rajiv Gandhis killers on the basis of 11-year delay in Court Martial;
deciding on mercy plea.[35][36] It was subsequently com- (b) in all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an
muted to life imprisonment.[37] In March 2014, Supreme oence against any law relating to a matter to which the
Court of India commuted death sentence of Devinder executive power of the Union extends;
Pal Singh Bhullar, convicted in a 1993 Delhi bombings case, to life imprisonment, both on the ground of (c) in all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.
unexplained/inordinate delay of eight years in disposal
of mercy petition and on the ground of insanity/mental
4 Execution of death sentence


Curative petition

The concept of Curative petition was evolved by the

Supreme Court of India in the matter of Rupa Ashok
Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra and Anr. (2002) where the
question was whether an aggrieved person is entitled
to any relief against the nal judgement/order of the
Supreme Court, after dismissal of a review petition.[41]
The Supreme Court in the said case held that to prevent
abuse of its process and to cure gross miscarriage of justice, it may reconsider its judgements in exercise of its
inherent powers.[42]

The execution of death sentence in India is carried out by

hanging by the neck till death.

4.1 Hanging
The Code of Criminal Procedure (1898) called for
the method of execution to be hanging. The same
method was adopted in the Code of Criminal Procedure
(1973).[47] Section 354(5) of the above procedure reads
as When any person is sentenced to death, the sentence
shall direct that the person be hanged by the neck till the
person is dead.



The Army Act, The Navy Act and The Air Force Act also
provide for the execution of the death sentence.[48] Section 34 of the Air Force Act, 1950 empowers the court
martial to impose the death sentence for the oences
mentioned in section 34(a) to (o) of The Air Force Act,
1950. Section 163 of the Act provides for the form of the
sentence of death as:In awarding a sentence of death, a courtmartial shall, in its discretion, direct that the
oender shall suer death by being hanged by
the neck until he be dead or shall suer death
by being shot to death.
This provides for the discretion of the Court Martial to
either provide for the execution of the death sentence by
hanging or by being shot to death. The Army Act, 1950,
and The Navy Act, 1957 also provide for the similar provisions as in The Air Force Act, 1950.

Death penalty in Independent India

At least 100 people in 2007, 40 in 2006, 77 in 2005, 23 in

2002, and 33 in 2001 were sentenced to death (but not executed), according to Amnesty International gures. No
ocial statistics of those sentenced to death have been
About 26 mercy petitions are pending before the president, some of them from 1992. These include those of
Khalistan Liberation Force terrorist Devinder Pal Singh
Bhullar, the cases of slain forest bandit Veerappan's four
associatesSimon, Gnanaprakasham, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilvendranfor killing 21 policemen in 1993;
and Praveen Kumar for killing four members of his family in Mangalore in 1994.[49]

explosives and other charges.[56] On 6 May 2010 the same

trial court sentenced him to death on four counts and to a
life sentence on ve other counts. Kasab was sentenced to
death for attacking Mumbai and killing 166 people on 26
November 2008 along with nine other Pakistani terrorists. He was found guilty of 80 oences, including waging
war against the nation, which is punishable by death.[57]
Kasabs death sentence was upheld by the Bombay High
Court on 21 February 2011.[58] and by the Supreme Court
on 29 August 2012.[59] His mercy plea was rejected by
the president on 5 November and the same was communicated to him on 12 November. On 21 November 2012,
Kasab was hanged in the Yerwada Central Jail in Pune.
Afzal Guru was convicted of conspiracy in connection
with the 2001 Indian Parliament attack and was sentenced
to death. The Supreme Court of India upheld the sentence, ruling that the attack shocked the conscience of
the society at large. Afzal was scheduled to be executed
on 20 October 2006, but the sentence was stayed. He
was hanged on 9 February 2013 at Delhi's Tihar Central
Yakub Memon, convicted of 1993 Bombay bombings,
was executed by hanging in Nagpur Central Jail at around
6:30 am IST on 30 July 2015.[62][63] On 21 March 2013
the Supreme Court conrmed Memons conviction and
death sentence for conspiracy through nancing the attacks. On 30 July 2013 the Supreme Court bench headed
by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice B. S. Chauhan and
Justice Prafulla Chandra Pant rejected Memons application for an oral hearing and dismissed his review petition
by circulation. Indian President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Memons petition for clemency on 11 April 2014.
Memon then led a curative petition to the Supreme
Court, which was rejected on 21 July 2015. He became
the rst convict in 31 years to be hanged in Nagpur Central Jail and the fourth in India since 2004.[64]

On 5 March 2012 a sessions court in Chandigarh ordered

the execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana, a convicted terrorist from Babbar Khalsa, for his involvement in the assassination of Chief Minister of Punjab Beant Singh.[65]
Seema Gavit and Renuka Shinde are the only two women The sentence was to be carried out on 31 March 2012 in
in India on death row, whose mercy pleas were rejected by Patiala Central Jail,[66] but the Centre stayed the executhe President after the Supreme Court of India conrmed tion on 28 March due to worldwide protests by Sikhs that
the execution was unfair and amounted to a human rights
their death sentence.[50]
As of July 2015, President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected 24 mercy pleas including that of Yakub Memon, On 13 March 2012, a court in Sirsa, Haryana, conAjmal Kasab, Afzal Guru.[51][52] On 27 April 1995, Auto demned to death 22-year-old Nikka Singh for raping and
strangling to death a 75-year-old woman on 11 FebruShankar was hanged in Salem, Tamil Nadu.
ary 2011.[68] The imposition of the death sentence was
On 14 August 2004, Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged
most appropriate in this case. The court has held that
for the murder (following a rape) of 18-year-old Hetal
it was a cold-blooded murder and where rape was comParekh at her apartment residence in Bhowanipur on 5
mitted on an innocent and hapless old woman, said
March 1990.[53][54] Chatterjee, whose mercy plea was reNeelima Shangla, the Sirsa additional district and sesjected on 4 August 2004, was kept at Alipore Central Jail
sions judge.[69] The rape and cold-blooded murder of
for nearly 14 years.[55]
a woman, who was of grandmothers age of the accused,
On 3 May 2010, a Mumbai Special Court convicted falls in the rarest of the rare case. The court held that
Ajmal Kasab of murder, waging war on India, possessing


Nikka Singh was a savage whose existence on earth

was a grave danger to society as he had also attempted
to rape two other village women.[70]
A special mention here is to the 650-page written judgment in the 1984 Assassination of Indira Gandhi, who
was killed by her bodyguards, in which the Delhi High
Court panel said, No excuse or circumstance can . .
. mitigate such a treacherous and cowardly act where
a defenseless woman was cruelly slaughtered by the
'guardians of her safety. The judgment condemned the
most inhuman mode of killing and said, Two persons
crowding in before an elderly woman and mercilessly
pumping into her not one or two but as many as 30 bullets is the ghastly scene to be conjured in the minds eye.
Kehar Singh was hanged on 6 January 1989 for conspiracy in the assassination, carried out by Satwant Singh and
Beant Singh.[71]


10 References
[1] Majumder, Sanjoy. "India and the death penalty. BBC
News 4 August 2005.
[2] Yakub Memon, third terror convict executed in 4 years.
[3] Explained: In the Supreme Court, some questions of Life
and Death.
[4] Yakub Memon case: Death penalty in India, by the numbers.
[5] " ".
[6] "'Just 4 of 26 hanged since '91 Muslims".
[7] VENKATESAN, V. (7 September 2012). A case against
the death penalty. Frontline. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
[8] "'Number of executions much higher than 52.'" Times of

In June 2012 it became known that Indian president

India. 10 March 2005.
Pratibha Patil, near the end of her ve-year term as president, commuted the death sentence of as many as 35 [9] Death penalty cannot be arbitrarily imposed: Expert.
convicts to life imprisonment, including four on the same
day (2 June), which created a storm of protest.[72] This [10] Trial courts give death freely, but just 5% conrmed.
caused further embarrassment to the government when it
[11] Death penalty les 'lost, eaten by termites".
came to light that one of these convicts, Bandu Baburao
Tidkeconvicted for the rape and murder of a 16-year- [12] 72 Muslims Hanged in India against 1,342 Hindus and
old girlhad died ve years previously from HIV.[73]
There have been calls for the introduction of the death [13] Data on death penalty convicts goes 'missing'".
penalty for rapists and molesters, especially since an in[14] General Assembly GA/10678 Sixty-second General Asfamous 2012 Delhi gang rape case and later crimes.

sembly Plenary 76th & 77th Meetings. ANNEX VI. Retrieved 30 July 2013.

NCRB and ACHR statistics

List of people executed

[15] General Assembly GA/11331 , Sixty-seventh General

Assembly Plenary 60th Meeting. 20 December 2012.
ANNEX XIII. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
[16] End death penalty, keep it only for terror: Law panel tells
government. 1 September 2015. Retrieved 9 September

Main article: List of oenders executed in India

See also: List of people executed in India before inde- [17] Yakub Memon rst to be hanged in Maharashtra after
Ajmal Kasab. 30 July 2015. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
[18] A case against the death penalty.

List of death row inmates

Main article: List of death row inmates in India

[19] Rajendra Prasad vs. State of Uttar Pradesh on 9 February, 1979. indiankanoon.org.
[20] Jagmohan Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh on 3 October,
1972. indiankanoon.org.
[21] Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab on 9 May, 1980. indiankanoon.org.

See also
Curative petition
Capital punishment in Pakistan

[22] Honour killings: Indias top court calls for death penalty.
The Sydney Morning Herald. 10 May 2011.
[23] Hang cops involved in fake encounters: Supreme Court.
NDTV.com. 8 August 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
[24] Is death for kidnap and ransom fair?". The Hindu. 5 July
2013. Retrieved 29 July 2013.

[25] The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987. PART

II , Punishment for oences relating to Sati. Retrieved 30
July 2013.
[26] The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. (PDF). Chapter II , Section
2 (1). Retrieved 30 July 2013.
[27] BBC News India president approves tough rape laws.
Bbc.co.uk. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
[28] Notorious Attack Spurs India to Approve New Rape
Laws. New York Times. 3 February 2013.
[29] India top court commutes 15 death sentences over 'delay'".
[30] India top court commutes 15 death sentences due to delays.
[31] The case of the sisters on death row.

[49] Centre sends nal opinion to President on 27 mercy petitions. The Times of India.
[50] Will the Gavit sisters, serial killers of children, be the
rst women to be hanged?".
[51] Yakub Memon and 23 other mercy pleas rejected by
President Pranab Mukherjee.
[52] President Pranab rejects 12 mercy pleas, a rst in India.
[53] The last hanging took 14 years after rape and murder.
[54] Book review: KR Meera borrows liberally from the mystique of the Dhananjoy hanging in Hangwoman.
[55] How India hanged a poor watchman whose guilt was far
from established.
[56] Irani, Delnaaz (3 May 2010). Surviving Mumbai gunman convicted over attacks. BBC News. Retrieved 3 May

[32] Yakub Memon hanging: Top lawyers seek late night

meeting with CJI, ask for 14 days stay per SC guidelines.

[57] Bombay HC upholds Kasabs death sentence.

[33] Mercy and the machinery of death.

[58] Kasab waged war against India: court. The Hindu

(Chennai, India). 22 February 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2011.

[34] Supreme Courts judgement on death penalty a humane

[35] Supreme Court commutes death sentence for Rajiv
Gandhis killers to life.
[36] Death commuted to life for 3 in Rajiv Gandhi killing.
[37] Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: SC upholds commutation of death to life sentence for killers.
[38] Bhullars death sentence commuted to life term by
Supreme Court.
[39] SC commutes Devinder Pal Singh Bhullars death sentence to life imprisonment.
[40] Yakub Memon to be hanged, but what about Bhullar and

[59] Supreme court conrms death sentence for Kasab. The

Hindu (Pune, India). 29 August 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
[60] After Afzal Gurus hanging, curfew, tight security in
Kashmir Valley. NDTV.com. 9 February 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
[61] Parliament House attack convict Afzal Guru hanged
to death at 8 am Times of India.
Timesondia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
[62] India executes Mumbai bomb plotter Yakub Memon.
[63] India Executes Yakub Memon, Man Tied to 1993 Mumbai Bombings.
[64] The Memon family.

[41] Explained- 1993 Mumbai serial blast: What is curative


[65] Punjab govt to challenge order to hang Beant Singhs

killer. The Times of India. 27 March 2012.

[42] The curious case of a curative petition.

[66] Punjab on high alert as court orders execution of Beant

Singhs killer. The Times of India. 27 March 2012.

[43] http://indiacode.nic.in/acts-in-pdf/132013.pdf
[44] Gujarat introduces death penalty for toxic alcohol. BBC

[67] Beant killer won't be hanged on March 31, News Nation. Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved 23 April 2013.

[45] Bengal hooch tragedy: Alcohol among major global

killers. The Times of India.

[68] Chandigarh: Youth gets death for rape, murder of 75year-old woman : North, News India Today. Indiatoday.intoday.in. 13 March 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2013.

[46] Supreme Court Judgement, Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar

vs. National Capital Territory of Delhi": 4346.

[69] Youth gets death for rape, murder of 75-year-old. The

Times of India. 14 March 2012.

[47] The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 Act No. 2 of

1974 (PDF). 25 January 1974. Retrieved 22 June 2014.

[70] http://www.hindustantimes.com/Punjab/Chandigarh/

[48] Consultation paper on mode of execution of death sentence and incidental matters (PDF). Law commission of
India. Retrieved 29 July 2013.

[71] Death Upheld for 3 Gandhi Assassins : Judges Ruling

Comes Day After Violent Sikh-Hindu Fighting. latimes.


[72] President Pratibha Patil goes on mercy overdrive. The

Times of India. 22 June 2012.
[73] President Pratibha Patil gives life to dead man. The
Times of India. 23 June 2012.
[74] http://ncrb.gov.in/PSI-2012/TABLE-7.3.pdf
[75] http://ncrb.gov.in/PSI-2013/TABLE-7.3.pdf
[76] Yakub Memon hanging: Are we using death penalty far
too often?".
[77] India one of top 10 nations where death sentences were
handed out last year.

Lethal lottery: The Death Penalty in India -a study

of Supreme Court judgments in death penalty cases
19502006 (summary report)
Lethal lottery: The Death Penalty in India -a study
of Supreme Court judgments in death penalty cases
19502006 (complete report)


External links

Status of Death Penalty in India

Model Prison Manual India
Lethal lottery: The Death Penalty in India -a study
of Supreme Court judgments in death penalty cases
19502006 from Amnesty International
The Death Penalty in India Brieng for the EU-India
Summit, 7 September 2005
India and the death penalty Sanjoy Majumder, BBC
Ajmal Kasab hanged and buried in Punes Yerwada



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