Capital Punishment: A necessity?

The author in this blog talks about the morality and ethics of capital punishment. The fairness of taking someone's life away. The author uses the references of various landmark cases to make arguments for and against this.

The talk about “Capital punishment” is per se controversial, and is caught up in a cobweb of divergent views with regard to its implementation. While the so-called ‘Human rights activists’ cry for its abolition, the ‘believers’ of ‘Retributive theory of justice advocate this form of punishment. At this juncture, were all hue and cry is made with special reference to its mention in the criminal legislations, the following paragraphs analyze the need for death sentences, in spite of it’s ‘anti-humane’ nature, for pro bono public.

Section 53 of the Indian penal code, 1860 provides various kinds of punishment to the assailants depending on the gravity of the offence. It’s pertinent to note that the first punishment is death/capital punishment for offences under sections 121,132,194, 195-A,302,305,307, 36-A, and 396 of the code.[1] Among all the punishments, this sentence of death occupies a distinct place in criminal and penal jurisprudence. The one feature that makes it unique is its irrevocable nature, which ultimately fulfills the demands of justice.

The whole concept of justice postulate that the punishment inflicted should fit the offence committed, leaving no scope for leniency. Albeit, the procedures followed in different systems (Adversarial and Inquisitorial) may vary, the object remains the same. This was also asserted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Mahesh V. State of Madhya Pradesh [2]that “giving lesser punishment to accused in such a brutal case will beaten citizen’s faith in courts and justice, and law is liable to provide justice to society”.  In Dhananjay Chatterjee Alias Dhana V. State of West Bengal,[3] Justice A.S. Anand and N.P. Singh said, “that the measure of punishment must depend on the gravity of the crime, so that the victim must be provided with fair justice”. But, once this intrinsic element is missed then the whole object of the criminal justice delivery system would be in vain

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Article 21 of the Constitution says “No person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law[4] in other words by the procedure established by law, human life can be deprived. Although the Constitution of India and Indian Penal Code allows this sentence, judicial decisions have interpreted it otherwise.

Great respect and applause to the evolution of the “Rarest of Rare” doctrine as propounded in Bachan Singh case[5] that has provided a safe haven for the assailants. Indeed, this dictum entrenched the policy that life imprisonment is the rule and death penalty an exception.

Our lawmakers must have had certain justifications while incorporating the provisions dealing with death penalty. Is killing the killer not an age-old mode of punishment for those committing heinous crimes? If so, why is there so much complexity and debate whether the penalty of the death sentence should be allowed in our statute books?[6] Reducing crime rates by abolishing the death penalty is a sheer impossibility.

Even when the first ever murder occurred on the planet, the murderer, Cainwas avenged for the blood of his brother- Abel. With regard to execution of death penalties, our country lags far behind while comparing with the Middle Eastern States where the strict public executions have led them to witness a drastic reduction in crime rates.

At the end of the day, common man is not bothered about various legal jargons, cliché’s, doctrines propounded by our honorable courts and even the justice delivery system. All he expects from the judiciary is a fair trial that leads to justice for the victims. The offenders of heinous crimes, whose guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt cannot be permitted to live just to be ornaments of our jails and objects of sale for our news vendors.[7] It’s the right time we turn back to the age-old form sanction, of providing capital punishments to all those culpable of defiling the society.

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[1]T. Bhattacahrya,” The Indian Penal Code”, 48 (7 ed., Central Law Publication, 2013)

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[2](1987) 3 SCC 80

[3](2004) 9 SCC 751

[4]Gopal Sankaranarayanan, “The Constitution of India”, 45 (12thedn, Eastern Book Company, 2014)

[5] AIR 1980 SC 898

[6]Gupta, Nina “ Capital Punishment to be retained as a deterrent” Lawyers Update Vol. XX, Part 9, Sept 2014,p.24

[7]Gupta, Nina “ Capital Punishment to be retained as a deterrent”  Lawyers Update Vol. XX, Part 9, Sept 2014 pp. 24