Death Penalty

Source– The post is based on the article “Life and death: The Supreme Court’s initiative to raise the bar on capital punishment is welcome” published in The Indian Express and “The death penalty must always be under debate” in the mint on 21th September 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Fundamental rights provided by Indian constitution

Relevance– About death penalty

News– The article explains the judicial position on death sentence. It also provides arguments against death sentence.

What is recent Supreme Court decision on death penalty?

The court decided to frame uniform rules for trial courts while giving death sentences. It asked a five-judge bench to set out norms.

It expressed the need for giving a person convicted of capital offence a meaningful opportunity to argue for mitigating circumstances.

It suggested that the court might not only consider the particular context of a crime. It should consider other factors like birth, privileges, psychology, social and educational background of the convict person.

What are arguments against death penalty?

India’s criminal justice system faces the issue of discrimination against those belonging to particular caste, religion and class.

A study in 2016 found that 76 per cent of such prisoners belonged to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, other backward classes or religious minorities. Three-fourths were from economically vulnerable sections.

Another 2020 Project 39A study of trial court judgments showed that in Delhi, 60% of death sentences, awarded by trial courts between 2000 and 2013, were converted into acquittals or commutation of sentences by the High Court.

Sound legal reasoning have not been provided by courts while awarding death sentences. The same study also showed that 72 per cent of all cases where Delhi trial courts awarded the death penalty from 2000 to 2015 cited “collective conscience of the society” as an influencing factor.

The 2015 Law Commission Report on Death Penalty recommended abolition of death sentence except in terror-related cases. The report noted the global trend that over 144 countries have either in law or practice abolished the death sentence.

What is the need of the day?

This case is a crucial opportunity to bring consistency into practice. We need to ensure that those facing capital punishment get a fair, humane, and just trial opportunity.

There is a need for a better-balanced approach to capital punishment. We need to rethink the wisdom of capital punishment.

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