Monday, December 7, 2015

Capital Punishment, the Need or Necessity

The present condition in India is such that one should support the abolishing of capital punishment in all cases, except for cases in which public conscience and national security is at stake. Crimes such as treason, rape and mutiny tend to create public outrage in the society. The Supreme Court in its landmark judgment and the legislature in amending the Code of Criminal Procedure in 1976 made it clear that death sentence would be prescribed only in rarest of the rare case.
Capital punishment has many problems. First being its unconstitutional nature as it violates Article 21 of the Constitution- Right to Life and Liberty. It was in the case of Maneka Gandhi where the court held that citizens and non-citizens are protected against arbitrary actions of executive as well as legislature, therefore making capital punishment inhumane and unconstitutional. Capital punishment has never achieved the desired deterrence effect. Law Commission of India in its 262 report provided statistics, which showed that capital punishment deterrent value is no greater than life imprisonment, claiming that it may even stand on the same footing. Main aim of deterrence has been to make the offender realise the wrong committed by him. In cases of capital punishment offender is never given a chance to realise his sins but only given punishment. It is proven that most fearful punishment will provide greater deterrence but still in our country there has been no decrease in crime rates where capital punishment is sentenced for the offence.
Another problem that needs to be highlighted is its execution process. Under Article 21, the government can deprive a person of his life and liberty only through due process of law which means that the process needs to be just, fair and reasonable. According to Article 72  of the Constitution, convict can plea for mercy to the President, and under Article 161 of the Constitution, convict can plea for mercy to the respective state governor but there is no  stipulated time under which the governor or president can answer the plea. These laws sometimes lead to inordinate delay, therefore infringing the rights of the accused. Such process of law does not satisfy the standards of reasonableness or fairness. In the case of Shatrughan Chauhan, the court sentenced 14 accused to death but because of delay in execution of the sentence, the court held that delay in execution process has dehumanising effect on the convicts. From 2006-2013, India was said to be capital punishment free country, but the fact was around 100 cases were sentenced to death but has not yet been executed. If the execution process is unconstitutional, then sure the desired goal of deterrence cannot be achieved through capital punishment.

Under our Constitution, maintenance of peace, order and safety in the society is one of the crucial functions of the government. Therefore it is important for the government to sentence capital punishment in such heinous crimes in which large scale public conscience is at risk because these types of crimes are capable of producing vast public outrage. Therefore i am of the opinion that capital punishment should be abolished from our legal system but except for cases in which peace, order and safety of society is largely and gravely at risk. 

"The following article is written by Rohit Bohra, a 3rd year law student of Jindal Global Law School."


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