Death Penalty & arguments for/against it


Death Penalty And The Arguments For And Against It

Supreme Court Judgement

Recently, the Supreme Court has come up with the judgment of commuting 15 convicts from the death sentence.

  • It is an expanded scope of judicial intervention to save the lives of the conflicts, especially when their mercy petitions have already been rejected.
  • It is said that with this judgment the Supreme Court has humanized the treatment that was earlier made out to the convicts facing gallows.
  • This judgment has enabled to overcome the exception provided by the Supreme Court in the earlier Devendrapal Singh Bullar case wherein it was said that all the terrorism related cases should be concluded with the death sentence.
  • It has provided new grounds for commutation like the mental illness of the convict, long delays in deciding the mercy petitions, solitary confinement, and procedural lapses.
  • It has also provided free legal aid to let the convicts draft their mercy petitions.
  • The Supreme Court has extended the Article 21 of the Indian Constitution that is the Right to Life. It has been extended till the execution of the convict. It is also said that the Fundamental Rights of a person would not be extinguished upon his/her conviction.
  • It has provided 14 days time before the execution and after the judgment, to let the convict meet his family members for the last time.
  • The judgment has also emphasized on conducting a post mortem after hanging the person, to confirm the cause of death.

This judgment has brought up the age-old debate on death penalty. Whether the death sentence, or a colonial legacy, can be acceptable in the 21st century?

Arguments Against The Death Penalty

  • There are few questions in this context that often lead us to an argument, and to consider doing away with the death sentence. Like, isn’t the death penalty a state sponsor of murder? States that can’t give any life, then how can it take it away? Doesn’t a state take revenge against a criminal through the death sentence?
  • There is absolutely no evidence that the death sentence would reduce crime in the society, anyhow.
  • The criminals are not given a chance to reform.
  • It is a very inhuman practice that violates the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights to which India is a signatory.
  • Many countries have banned the death sentence.
  • The death sentence not only punishes the convicts, but also affects their family. It is observed that often in such families there are juvenile delinquents.
  • A death-row convict spends most part of his life in confinement, while fearing and counting his days to conviction.  It is said that this itself is an agony more cruel than the death sentence.
  • Besides, what if there is an error in the judgment of the Supreme Court? Can it bring back the life of the person?
  • The death penalty doesn’t teach anything to the convict. He doesn’t get a lesson, and he can’t undo his wrong deeds, after he is no more.

Arguments For The Death Sentence

  • It is said that the death sentence has a deterrence effect. Besides, a state can’t close its eyes to the harsh crimes committed in its society.
  • The Supreme Court has enunciated that the death sentence would be given only in the rarest of the rare cases.
  •  There are several nations, including the United States, China, and Japan etc. that have still retained the death sentence punishment.
  • It is also said that the death sentence per se is not as cruel as one thinks of. Good behavior, during the period of sentence, enables the provision of obtaining parole by the convict.
  • However, it is argued that the death penalty is the best answer that could be given to the victim’s family seeking justice against the criminal or the convict.
  • Besides, with the advancements in science and technology, the death sentence is considered not that cruel as it is often said. One can instantly be put to death using various means.

What Exactly Is The Way Ahead?

  • The Supreme Court should consider the reasons for the crimes, rather than generalizing all the criminals. One could probably commit a crime owing to some mental disorder or any other personal reason. Besides, at times, the criminal is not habitual of such wrong doings, and it might be a one-time affair.  Hence, the Supreme Court should definitely consider the background for the crime.
  • The Supreme Court should consider the livelihood of the family members of the convict while giving the judgment.
  • Through a comprehensive set of judicial and police reforms, the government should reduce the cycle of FIR->charge-sheet->trial->evidence->judgment->conviction or acquittal appeal-> mercy petition.
  • Considering that the death penalty is retained, the Supreme Court should fine-tune its clemency jurisprudence to humanize the process even further.
  • Whatever said and done, India being a signatory to the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights, it is only a matter of time that India should also gradually abolish the death penalty in tune with the times and in tune with the UN declaration.