DEATH PENALTY- Should be Retained or Abolished? – An essay by Our Student Shruti Tawade
Death penalty or capital punishment is not new concept in Indian society. Ever since time immemorial death penalty in various forms was prevalent in India. The great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata has reference to ‘vadha danda.’ Death penalty in its cruellest form also existed during Mughal era. Also, during British era though not in the brutal state death sentence was prevalent.
Death penalty has become huge debatable topic in current Indian scenario. Whether a person be hanged or whether any nation including India indulge in giving death sentences are some of the questions raised today. The issue of abolition and retention of death penalty raises moral, political, social, constitutional concerns. Hence, we need to adopt a balanced and rational approach before we narrow down the issue.
Firstly, we need to take a look at our own constitutional provisions which are questioned today. Death penalty is infliction of death as a punishment for any barbarous crimes our any wrongful act given by state as per the law. In India, IPC 1860 awards death sentences for various offences namely- murder (sec 302, sec 303), dacoity coupled with murder (sec 396), war against state (sec 121), instigating a minor (sec 305), etc. After 2012 Delhi rape case, rape also became punishable to death under sec 376A of IPC and criminal law (Amendment) act 2013. As per POCSO Act,2012 rape and gangrape of women below 12 years is also punishable with death sentences. But of course, this law comes with couple of conditions and exemptions as in India capital punishment is given in rarest of rare cases. Any painful methods or hanging in public is abolished. Child, pregnant women, persons above the age of 70 are not punished to death. So, as we take a closer look there are lot of considerations before death penalty is imposed in India.
The basic purpose of criminal laws of any nation is reformation and not retribution. But it is also the responsibility of the state to maintain proper law and order in the nation and provide utmost security to its citizens. Restoration of faith of its citizens on country’s judiciary system is also dependent on how our courts or law punish the ones who commit heinous crimes like murder, rape, genocide etc. and hence capital punishment may be the means to this end. Although taking someone’s life is inhuman but people who commit barbarous crime and show no clemency towards innocent victims should be punished. In this way our system can set an example in front of our society and incite fear in the minds of those who even contemplate to commit such crimes. Therefore, capital punishment to murderers, serial killers, rapists or terrorists who themselves show no mercy or consideration for others and who are blinded by power, vengeance or unethical religious practices is an apt decision. if the criminal is not punished to death and left in the society then there is no guarantee that he will not commit such crime again.
Death penalty is a deterrent for criminals who show disregard for human life the severity of law towards such intolerable crimes. Although some critics argue on the fact that deterrence show no results or that the crime rates have not reduced, but that does not invalidate the death penalty. Most important aspect to look here is the ultimate prosperity of our society. If the offenders are not punished equally to the severity of the crimes, they committed then nobody will respect law and order, rules will become weaker and the peace in the society will disappear.
Therefore, it is necessary to eliminate the law breakers by punishing them to death.
Most people in the favour of death penalty believe in ‘eye for an eye’ approach. According to them death of a victim should equal death of the criminal which is necessary for healthy society. But mere social demands driven by vengeance or emotional humanity waves should not be the only parameter for death penalty. The law for death penalty in India is itself flawed. In 2012, 14 retired judges asked for 13 cases of death penalty to be commuted after admitting that the original sentence was out of error or ignorance. Hon’ble former president Pratibha Tai Patil commuted death penalty of a person to life imprisonment who had died 5 years back. There has been no execution during the tenure of hon’ble president Pratibha tai Patil but hon’ble former president Pranab Mukherjee rejected the mercy petitions of 11 out of 16 death sentences. This brings us to the conclusion that death penalty depends upon the discretion of judges and next on the personal belief of the individual presidents.
The next flaw is in the implementation. to put forward some statistics, in 2014, 125 criminals were sentenced to death, 179 were commuted to life imprisonment and only one was hanged. This itself raises the question of constitutional validity of death penalty. Also, death penalty is irrevocable in nature. if someone is sentenced to death and executed on the grounds of false evidences or error in judgement then it will be the biggest defeat of Indian judiciary system. Rape as a crime attracting death penalty was added after the Delhi gang rape case but will hanging of culprits make our country safer? Is the question to ask.
In India death penalty is given in for rarest of rare crimes. In the case of Bachan singh v/s state of Punjab it came to everyone’s notice that the decision on deciding on rarest of rare crimes lies with the judges. There are no proper guidelines to arrive at decision that what are ‘special reasons’ for which death penalty is given. Thus, the very arbitrary nature of this punishment is also questioned. In the case of Rajendra prasad v/s state of Uttar Pradesh
arguments such as death penalty is against the very principle of right to live and freedom which is deprived when the person is hanged were raised which concluded death penalty as unconstitutional. Another most complex situation is that penalty under IPC are limited, life imprisonment is the only another option for death penalty. Hence this restricts the judgements and type of punishments to be given for such brutal and heinous crimes.
Article 21 of our constitution provides that, “no person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.” but a person’s (criminals) right to liberty should not come at the cost of life of another person .death penalty is defended on the ground of zero reformation of criminals. But we need to understand that not all valyas can become valmiki’s. reformation of criminal is a good thing to hear but not practical.it is highly impossible to reform every criminal as it will cost huge and burn tax payers money. Though capital punishment is against the rehabilitative process and progressive human society but what reform do we expect from a person who raped a five-year-old girl? Though capital punishments have proved inefficient in deterring crime but that is because of delay in our judicial proceedings.
Almost 139 nations in the world has abolished death penalty but in 2007 India voted against the UN resolution to abolished death penalty. Many who are opposed said India is against the international conventions. but the point to understand here is not all societies are same. in the countries like India where mob lynching, homicide is still prevalent, where there is racial, religious, political and cultural diversity, where crimes like rape are still committed irrespective of strong laws in place. in such society abolishing death penalty will bring anarchy and complete instability. Also, India is not the only country giving death penalty. According to amnesty international’s report, in 2018 china gave more than 1000, Iran 253 plus and Saudi Arabia 150 plus death penalties. Most of the nations including India has already abolished painful methods and only has hanging as a method of death penalty which does not violate any humanitarian attitude.
As per the conditions in India, the difference in the social upbringing of its inhabitants, the disparity in economic in economic and social conditions, education, the huge diversity prevailing on its land, the vast area and ever-increasing population. Where we are striving to cut down the pending cases and to provide justice to its citizens, India should not risk abolishing capital punishment at least at this juncture. The penalties given for any crime should consider the crime, the criminal and his background, the law which will set an example, the society which it will have long lasting effect on and international society and conventions which perhaps we are bound to. Though the ultimate decision lies with our judiciary, it has obligation to act in unbiased manner.
I strongly feel that law and judiciary are the strong pillars on which our nation sustains.it has to be prudent, strong and independent enough and punishment should be so rigorous that not only offenders, terrorists, rapists be reminded of the crimes they have committed but it should be living example for society around us. On the contrary, if our judiciary cannot think of even more severe punishments than swift deaths, in this case death penalty should prevail.