Should the Death Penalty be Abolished in India?

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A data revealed that between the years 2000 to 2015, the Supreme Court had imposed 60 death penalties, where it had erred in giving the death penalty in approximately 15 cases i.e. 25% of the total cases. Can we confide trust and faith in our criminal jurisprudential system to take away the life of a person where it is a recognized datum that the administration of this very system is weak and vulnerable due to reasons being lack of resources, overstressed power of the police and fragile laws? Another argument is that it is not secreted that the court has often failed in discharging its powers due to which in numerous cases the accused has been wrongly imprisoned by the court.

In Bachan Singh v. the State of Punjab, (1980) (2 SCC 684), a Constitution Bench articulated the “rarest of rare” threshold stating that “judges should never be bloodthirsty”. Death must only be imposed where the alternative option is indisputably barred. In another world, the death penalty doesn’t deter criminals instead it can be recognized as an inhumane methodology that is used to kill someone which further only continues to propagate the cycle of violence. Furthermore, it outrightly violates the basic right that is provided to everyone under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution: the right to life.  Our criminal jurisprudence rests on the very basic foundation of punishing a person for the crimes perpetrated by him against an individual.

The concept of “an eye for an eye” is barbaric and brutal. Since 1991, a total of 30 executions have taken place in India, the most recent of which was carried out in 2020. Nevertheless, there is no logical explanation of imposing the death penalty since it has not deterred murder, terrorism or rape in India. Sometimes due to political and media pressure also, the courts are obligated to impose the death penalty arbitrarily making it irrational and unfair. It is crucial to realize that a punishment given by the courts should not imitate the crime. It will be prejudicial from our side to defend the death penalty as it is far more fundamental in nature rather than a mode of seeking vengeance.

Implementation of the death penalty has also been very challenging since there are structural defects in our criminal justice system and the biased process of investigation corners the marginalized people ultimately subjecting them to the death penalty. It can be very well reasoned that the convicts on a death row suffer from agony, enervating fear due to the lengthy trials and procedures of the court which is subjecting them to “near torture”.

What I propose here is to abolish the death penalty since approximately 140 countries all over the globe have removed it completely from their legal system. Alternately, the degree of the punishment shall be inconsonance with the degree of the crime and criminals perpetrating crimes like terrorism, rape and murder shall be given rigorous life imprisonment without any bail or parole or shall be kept in solitary confinement. India can categorize murder into different degrees like the United States criminal justice system and accordingly the courts can give rigorous life imprisonment whenever required.

We live in a progressive civilized society and there should be no room for political vengeance or state revenge. We as a society will be more satisfied when the perpetrators who have committed such heinous crimes are behind the bars for their entire life rather than dying a quick death and gaining unnecessary media attention.  

By
Heena Jalan
School of Law, KIIT University

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