The year 2017 saw a significant drop of nearly 27 per cent in award of death penalty by sessions courts across the country, a report published by the National Law University (NLU) said. The report titled 'Death Penalty in India, Annual Statistics for the year 2017' said that in 2016, 149 persons were sentenced to death, while only 109 convicts were awarded capital punishment in 2017. Out of the 109 death punishments awarded by sessions courts last year, the high courts commuted 53 cases and acquitted 35 persons, it said. However, the report also showed an increase in number of convicts sent to gallows for murders involving sexual violence in the year 2017. It said 43 convicts were awarded death for murders involving sexual violence in 2017, which is 19 more than the year before. Among the states, Maharashtra tops the list with 67 prisoners in death row. The state had 47 death row prisoners in 2016, the report said. However, the death row population in Karnataka has reduced from 27 in 2016 to 12 in 2017, owing to various commutations and acquittals by the high court. The report also revealed that as on December 31, 2017, a total of 371 prisoners are on death row across the country. The President of India disposed nine mercy petitions previous year, as compared to six during 2016, it said, adding five out of the nine disposed petitions were rejected and the other four were commuted.