Death penalty v/s right to life.

Death penalty as many people see it is commonly called by them as barbaric and cruel. They perceive it to be inhuman and infringing the human rights. That is why, many a times steps have been taken for its abolition both at regional as well as international level, where second optional protocol to the international covenant on civil and political rights, 1990 is worth a mention. Such people say that if such a thing or trend is followed it will turn the violators or criminals more furious. Then what about the victims and their families? Also the covenant on civil and political rights in its article 6 refers to the abolition of death penalty, leaving a provision “not arbitrarily”. Also in the universal declaration of human rights it has been laid down in article 3 that “everyone has the right to life…” and in its article 5 it has been said that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. So all such steps tend to impose an impression that death penalty overall is brutal and inhuman.

Once said by Gandhi that if we continue taking eye for eye one day the world will be blind. Not only Gandhi, but a good lot of people do believe in it and are working for its abolition; and they definitely are disillusioned.

Life, as we know, is dear to every living being. Life is beyond price. Even the animals have a feel for threat, when these get attacked they also retaliate to that attack. This shows that even those, whom we perceive to be senseless, do care for their lives. Then why should not we? So if death penalty would be inflicted in a strict way then it will surely curb the menace of grievous crimes, as it will create a fear of deprivation of their lives.

Life sentence or death penalty, both are given in cases of grievous nature. But I strongly stick to the death penalty where the nature of the crime is grievous, death penalty should be inflicted. The basic reason of evolution of law is social security and social sanctity.

In countries where death penalty is given strictly, we have observed a lower crime rate as compared to others which have abolished the death penalty. Taking an example of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where the crime rate lowest and it is because of the harsher code of conduct which assures its subjects best social security. As clear from the graph the most of the Muslim nations are within the ambit of lower crime rate and it is because of the strict code of conduct the Islam provides.

crime rate all over world

crime rate in different nations. pic from

As the abolitionists argue it as inhuman and cruel, the retentionist like me defend it to be just and fair. Let us take an illustration in which a person commits rape of a 6-year-old girl and so she dies or gets killed (jumman khan v. sakina case), what would be the judgment that a sane person would inflict upon the criminal? What would be the justice that her parents would like to inflict upon him? It definitely is “death”. Now here if the maxim given by Gandhi and other abolitionists are followed, the guilty person would be given life term, but will that soothe the victims’ family? Will that ensure the social security that the world at this crucial stage, when the world has turned to be materialistic, needs? Obviously it will not! Rather it will surely encourage the criminal minds to devise and carry out their evil deeds and would pose a continuous threat to the lives and prestige of millions. In another example if a person gets killed brutally and intentionally just for any petty cause, do you think that such a person(s) deserve(s) to live a dignified life even being in jail (article 21 Indian constitution). I, in no case, would like to put such a person in jail/prison to enjoy the dignified life that he has deprived some innocent of.

The countries where the harsher code of conduct is applied do surely care for the lives and dignity of the innocents. And those which do support and encourage the criminals by putting them in jails and have abolished death penalty do without any doubt risk the lives of millions of its citizens for the sake of saving a few beasts.

The abolitionists also argue it to be violating the article 21 of the Indian constitution but that is not the fact, but just an excuse as the article itself says:

“no person should be deprived of his life and personal liberty except by the procedure established by law.”

So the article has left a provision for the state to deprive anybody of his life that would be led by established statutes. The article in itself says that no person should be deprived of his life unnecessarily. But the abolitionists have interpreted it wrongly and tend to misguide the world. India indeed has statutes that determine the degree of criminal liability that might “attract” death penalty for the wrongdoer, for instance Indian penal code, criminal procedure code etc.

The abolitionists also argue that even after inflicting death penalties on the criminals the crime rate in India has not leveled down.

The reason for that lies in the weakness in dispensing the sentence, which is mostly controlled by political motifs. Like in Gujarat riots case the criminals, even after confessing their crimes, were awarded life term. The person(s) who were involved in the commission of crime directly or indirectly were all from some political party. Even after inflicting life term they might have been assured a better life in prison than they would have lived outside. This is the quality of  judicial system that we have in India that we believe in dispensing justice. Even the terrorist Ajmal Kasab has been sentenced to death penalty, but the sentence has not yet been dispensed and it is all because of the political pressure that forces the authorities to delay it.

Again, one more hindrance in the way of inflicting and dispensing death sentence is presidential pardon. Recently, the outgoing president Pratibha Patel pardoned more than 30 persons who were convicted to death for various grievous crimes, which has encouraged the criminals. I am not against the presidential pardon but it must be exercised only in the cases where the president smells a dint of doubt. And that was the basic reason that was behind the rule, but the presidents have used it for their own political or showing off type or unnecessary exaggeration of their pityness, that has risked the lives of millions. By pardoning the presidents impliedly convey that the judicial system of India is good for nothing and are yet to mature. So before doing such a thing in future the president must think twice, if not for the sake of prestige of Indian judicial system but for the sake of lives of millions of its subjects.

Last but not least, the only thing I want to say is that the death penalty  be retained. Such a thing has even been said by lot of learned judges of both high courts and Supreme Court like in case of Jagmohan Singh where court held that the death penalty be retained and inflicted only in “rarest of rare cases”.


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