Death penalty-The Hindu-20-09-2022
PRELIM AND MAINS:
Define Death Penalty or Capital punishment?
It can be defined as the execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offence.
It is the highest penalty awardable to an accused.
When was this penalty awarded?
Capital punishment in India has been limited to the rarest of rare cases- like Section 121 (taking up arms against the state) and Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code 1860.
What is the Status of the Death Penalty in the Indian Context?
Prior to the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act (Cr PC) of 1955, the death penalty was the rule and life imprisonment was an exception in India.
After the amendment of 1955 courts were at liberty to grant either death or life imprisonment.
As per Section 354 (3) of the CrPC, 1973 the courts are required to state reasons in writing for awarding the maximum penalty.
The situation has been reversed and a life sentence is a rule and the death penalty an exception in capital offences.
Capital punishment once delivered by the court of sessions (“sentencing court”) is required under the law (CrPC) to be confirmed by the jurisdictional High Court (“confirming court”).
No death sentence imposed by a trial court can be executed unless the punishment is confirmed by the High Court too.
What are the arguments in favour of the Death Penalty?
T o maintain a level of deterrence in society to prevent heinous crimes like murder
Some acts like waging war against the State, terrorism etc. erode the sanctity of our National Security framework. For instance, Ajmal Kasab was awarded the death sentence for carrying out the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Supporters of the Death Penalty say that there are some acts which shake the collective conscience of society and deserve nothing except the death penalty.
Preventing instances like the rape case Nirbhaya gang-rape case, had shocked the conscience of the whole country. One of the accused committed suicide in jail and one of the accused was a juvenile so he was not sentenced to death. But the other four accused were sentenced to death and were also hanged in the year 2020.
Proponents of capital punishment argue that some criminals commit the most terrible of crimes and are beyond redemption (e.g., some accused of multiple rape cases).
They show no remorse or repentance. There is no change of reform and should be awarded the death sentence for the safety of citizens.
What are the arguments in favour of the abolition of the Death Penalty?
There is a high degree of subjectivity in awarding death sentences as the judges find it difficult to balance the mitigating and aggravating factors.
The death sentence is frequently used disproportionately on the poor, minorities, and members of racial, ethnic, political, and religious communities.
According to the Death Penalty India Report 2016 (DPIR), approximately 75% of all convicts sentenced to death in India are from socio-economically underprivileged categories, such as Dalits, OBCs, and religious minorities.
It put mental stress on a person sometimes they attempt suicide during the trial.
Courts often give compensation to individuals who are wrongly convicted and have spent considerable time in jail due to an error by the State. However, if a person is wrongly hanged, then no amount of compensation can bring back the person and mitigate the error.
The death sentence is a violation of the right to life, which is the most fundamental of all human rights.
They focus on reforming the criminal rather than deterring him with stricter and harsh punishments. More than 100 countries have already abolished the death sentence for all offences. This includes most European nations, Australia, New Zealand etc.
The death penalty does not serve the penological goal of deterrence any more than life imprisonment. Further, life imprisonment under Indian law means imprisonment for the whole of life subject to just remissions which, in many states in cases of serious crimes, are granted only after many years of imprisonment which range from 30-60 years.