The Death Penalty is an extreme form of punishing a criminal or an offender. Serious crimes like conniving and committing a capital crime, conspiring against the Government and waging war, planning an insurgence in armed services, encouraging a minor, mentally deranged or a drunken person to commit suicide, murder, kidnapping followed by a payoff, armed robbery followed by murder, drug trafficking and rape and murder or causing a vegetative state of the survivor and repeating such crime fall under the purview of capital punishment in India.
See this video about socio-economic profile of prisoners sentenced to death in India prepared by National Law University’s Death Penalty Research Project, using statistics and case studies for in-depth understanding of the administration of the death penalty in India –
Yakub Memon, arrested and proved guilty of financing the 1993 Mumbai bombings received death penalty on July 30, 2015. So far, it’s the latest case on capital punishment in Indian jurisdiction. In 1980, the Supreme Court in Bachan Singh case put forward the ‘rarest of the rare’ principle, making capital punishment an exception! There is a huge difference of opinion across the globe that whether capital punishment should be prohibited or not as majority of the views remain polarized. Presently, crimes of varied measures have become a part and parcel of our lives. Everywhere in the world, crimes of different nature are reported and flashed in headlines on a daily basis. Crimes are rampant but so does the power and domination of criminals.
What is ‘rarest of the rare’?
This statutory principle makes life sentence a rule but death sentence an exception. In case of death penalty, rareness is a deciding factor which implicates its usage with extreme caution. Here brutality of the crime, cruelty, sordid nature of the offence and the conduct of the offender along with his/her previous association with crime etc. are the major parameters or the bar to decide on capital punishment. To quote the Supreme Court in Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab, “Death penalty should be imposed when collective conscience of the society is so shocked that it will expect the holders of the judicial power centre to inflict death penalty irrespective of their personal opinion as regards desirability of otherwise of retaining death penalty”.
Check this video below regarding Yakub Memon’s hanging for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, which reopened the death penalty debate exposing sharply divided views –
The similar terms of death penalty are:
- Death Sentence
- Judicial Murder
- Capital Punishment
Few people consider that death penalty only invokes furtherance of crimes, making the nation a vengeful state. Common techniques used in death penalty worldwide are hanging, electrocution, fire squad, gas chamber and inserting lethal injections. The Portuguese Government is the foremost nation to ban death penalty and obliterate it from the face of the earth. Let’s take a look at few major pros and cons of inflicting capital punishment:
- The Death Penalty is an effective way to stop recurrence of a crime. In the case of repeat offenders, the death penalty is the best way to put a lifetime stop. A convict with lifetime imprisonment still stands a chance to slay his/her jail inmates, guards or may even flee. It’s a way of maintaining law and order of the society on one hand and preserve and defend heinous crimes happening within jail premises on the other.
- Capital punishment is applicable only to the offenders committing brutal crimes. Before passing a death sentence, decisive and judicious thoughts are made by the judges. It’s not an instant decision. A lot of considerations on part of the jury are taken care of like the offender has to be mentally stable to plot and execute a well-crafted crime, his/her criminal background, the extent of the severity of the offense and so forth before inflicting death sentence based on a unanimous decision. The question that arises here is, does an orderly state demand death of the convict?
- Death sentence somewhat soothes the pain of losing dear ones for the deceased or the survivor’s family. Also, the family members get a kind of final closing of crime and trauma that they went through as an aftermath of the crime via death sentence.
The most common and widely discussed disadvantage or cons of the death penalty is that it’s out and out immoral and unethical. Crusaders against death penalty believe that it’s kind of a “measure for measure’’. The death penalty doesn’t combat crime and criminality; rather it makes the society more vindictive. The philosophy of tooth for a tooth only creates an unending cycle of aggression and abuse. Articles 72 and 161 of the Indian Constitution allow governors and the president to implement ‘pardons, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases’ saving hundreds of convicts from scaffold.
Just to refresh the memory, we all know that the Supreme Court has deferred death penalty in some of the cases which created a stir and grabbed the headline like Graham Staines, Priyadarshini Mattoo and Jessica Lal where the highest judicial forum and the final court of India didn’t consider the cases to have fallen under the ‘rarest of the rare’ category and pardoned capital punishment. To quote human rights activist Meenakshi Ganguly “we believe that the death penalty should be abolished because it is inherently inhumane.” Life imprisonment followed with proper rehabilitation can be an apt answer to this issue. Rehabilitation along with exact psychological assessment can create wonders at times.
Answer to this tough call is no easy. Again, who should decide on this, civil society, parliament or the Supreme Court? Should society consider the convict and go ahead with reform and forgiveness or with the victim and lean on retribution? Last but not the least, how can a life sentence be a ‘lifesaver’ for a convict? It’s just an extension of his agony…
What’s your take on this?