Capital punishment remains a contentious and morally fraught issue, eliciting impassioned debates globally. Advocates argue that it serves as a deterrent to heinous crimes, while opponents emphasize the risk of executing innocent individuals and question its effectiveness in preventing crime. In the Indo-Pacific region, diverse perspectives on capital punishment exist, reflecting the cultural, legal, and political variations among nations. Japan, for instance, retains the death penalty, citing its cultural and historical context, despite international pressure to abolish it. Navigating the delicate balance between justice and human rights, the editorial analysis must delve into the evolving dynamics of capital punishment in the Indo-Pacific, shedding light on the complexities surrounding its implementation and the broader implications for regional legal frameworks and human rights discourse.
Tag: GS-2 Policies and governance
In News: The parliamentary committee that examined the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), has proposed a criminal statute to replace the IPC, but it has not made a recommendation to abolish the death penalty
Introduction to The Capital Punishment
- The death penalty, the most severe form of punishment globally, is entrenched in India’s legal system, although there is a growing movement advocating for its abolition.
- Events, such as the Supreme Court’s dismissal of a petition for the immediate execution of convicts in the Nirbhaya case, highlight the ongoing debate.
- The Indian Penal Code, along with other laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, allows for the death penalty in specific offenses.
- The Constitution empowers the President and Governors to grant clemency, and the capital punishment verdict must be confirmed by the High Court.
- India, while retaining the death penalty, does not employ it as frequently as some other countries, aligning with a 2007 UN resolution urging a moratorium on its administration.
Why capital punishment should be abolished?
- The death penalty lacks efficacy and purpose in India and much of the civilized world, with no evidence supporting its deterrent effect on crime.
- Studies suggest that for deterrence to be effective, severity must coexist with certainty and swiftness of punishment, conditions not met by capital punishment.
- The legal system’s fallibility is evident, as the Supreme Court has admitted errors in 25% of death sentences imposed between 2000 and 2015.
- The death penalty disproportionately impacts the poor and marginalized, who may lack adequate legal representation.
- Moreover, its administration is acknowledged to be arbitrary and dependent on the personal beliefs of adjudicators, leading to inconsistent outcomes.
Why capital punishment should not be abolished?
- The constitutionality of the death penalty has been upheld not only in India but also in liberal democracies like the United States.
- Its retention is seen as a reflection of the individual geopolitical circumstances of each state rather than a characteristic of “uncivilized” polities defined by violence.
- While early reports suggested studying the impact on a new republic, recent recommendations from the Law Commission did not advocate absolute abolition.
- The exception for terror cases is justified by India’s challenging geopolitical environment, where attempts to destabilize the nation are frequent.
- The death penalty, according to the Law Commission, is considered a crucial component of the national response, particularly in cases of violent terror.
- Defenders argue for retributive justice, asserting that certain acts deemed heinous justify the ultimate punishment as a means of protecting society and affirming the sanctity of life.
- Notable executions, like those of Ajmal Kasab and Yakub Memon, are viewed as expressions of India’s commitment to upholding life.
- The capital punishment in India is not considered arbitrary as it stems from a judicial process, with courts exercising caution due to the irreversibility of the penalty.
- Executions are restricted to rarest of rare cases that shock society’s conscience.
- Recent amendments, particularly after the 2012 Delhi gang rape, expanded the scope of the death penalty for specific crimes, sparking polarized debates.
- The “rarest of rare” threshold set by the Constitution Bench in 1980 emphasizes that death should only be imposed when no alternative option is viable.
- While the Law Commission called for the abolition of the death penalty for ordinary crimes in 2015, political will in India remains influenced by populism.
- The constitutionality of the death penalty continues to be challenged, and the Supreme Court may have to address whether the absence of political will can override the right to life.
- Additionally, recent Supreme Court rulings emphasize the rights of death row convicts, affirming their fundamental right to dignity and equality through reasonable access to family, friends, lawyers, and mental health professionals.