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Capital Punishment: A Critical Analysis

The death penalty, commonly referred to as "capital punishment", is a contentious topic. Many argue that torture is a necessary tool for combating crime and reducing crime, whereas others argue that it is cruel, inhumane, and ineffective. No matter where you stand on the subject, it's vital to know what the death penalty is and how it has been employed in history because it is still utilized in many legal systems around the globe.

To answer the question, "What is capital punishment?" this blog post will examine the concept of capital punishment, crimes punishable by the death penalty, arguments in favour of and against the capital punishment, as well as its history and numerous forms.

What Is Capital Punishment?

First and foremost, let's define capital punishment. The death penalty, sometimes referred to as capital punishment, is the execution of a person who has been sentenced to death by a court of law for a criminal offence. This is the harshest punishment that a criminal can receive. It is normally reserved for the most severe offences, like murder, rape, treason, and so forth.

Capital punishment is considered as the most suitable penalty and effective weapon for the most major felonies. Those who oppose it, on the other hand, consider it cruel. As a result, the death penalty's morality is questionable, and many criminologists and socialists across the world have long called for its repeal.

Over history, the concept of capital punishment has evolved a lot. Terrorist activity, spying, treason, and drug smuggling are just a few of the crimes for which it is used. It could also be used to put someone to death who is regarded as too harmful for the community to be kept alive.

A number of dynasties have risen and fallen over the course of centuries. However, in order to administer justice, the death penalty was frequently used. Despite the fact that numerous organisations upheld the death penalty being abolished, it is still used in several countries. Capital punishment or death sentence has been prescribed as a crime against humanity in the Charter of Rights by the UN and it has also requested its members to terminate the same.

However, India, as one of its members, is yet to abolish the death penalty, despite the fact that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution states that the administration has no authority to take a person's life. As a consequence, India's worldwide stance on the death penalty, both before the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, has consistently been against the resolution, claiming that it violates the country's law statutes, which allow for capital punishment only in the rarest of circumstances.

Crimes Punishable By Death Penalty In India:

  • Murder:
    Murder is considered a crime that is penalized under Section 302. The death penalty could be awarded to a group that commits burglary and even in the process where one of the members commits murder, or whenever a person is taken hostage in exchange for protection money and the individual is brutally murdered, or being involved in any illegitimate alliance or illicit behavior that outcomes in a person's execution, as well as aiding and committing Sati.
  • Rape:
    A rapist that, during the conduct of the offence, induces the victim's murder or leaves the person in a chronic neurological condition is penalized under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. Rape of females under the age of 12 will result in the death penalty, and it also includes mandatory 20 years of imprisonment and a fine as well.
  • Offence related to terrorism:
    An indictable offence including any use of a type of special classification of explosives that have the potential to endanger people or property is punishable by death.
  • Treason:
    The act of attempting to wage or carrying on a war in opposition to the government, soldiers, Army or Navy members, or even Air Forces in committing mutiny are liable to be punished under the death penalty.

Arguments in support of capital punishment

Proportionate punishment:
In accordance with one of the basic notions of retribution, individuals should receive what they deserve in proportion to the gravity of their crime. According to this reasoning, ideal justice requires individuals to endure their transgressions and to suffer in a manner that complies with the crime. Each offender should be punished as severely as their crime warrants, and in the case of a murder, the perpetrator should be hanged.

The argument that hanging convicted offenders will deter future grave offenders is sometimes invoked to support the death penalty. The death penalty is regularly proposed as a means of bringing peace to the deceased's families. Individuals who have been sentenced to death have used the time preceding their punishment to apologize, show sorrow, and, in many instances, undertake major spiritual healing.

Arguments against capital punishment

Killing the innocent:
The most common objection opposing the death penalty is that, eventually, innocent citizens may be hanged as a result of inadequacies or deficiencies in the legal system. As per Amnesty International, as long as human justice is flawed, the risk of executing the blameless will not be eliminated.

Should follow the path of developed countries:
Death as a punitive measure has been banned throughout most modern countries. As per the UN Secretary General's assessment of the capital punishment submitted to the Human Rights Council, "about 170 States have abolished or set a moratorium on the capital punishment, either in law or in practice, or have delayed executions for more than 10 years."

Mathematical research suggests that deterrence is ineffective:
The statistical evidence does not support the idea that deterrence is effective. Despite the fact that death has been recommended in rape cases since 2013 (Section 376A of the IPC), rapes continue to occur, and the savagery of rapes has grown dramatically. This leads one to believe that the death penalty is an ineffective crime deterrent.

The Indian context

In India, the frequency of punishment has dropped dramatically over the last two decades. The right to liberty, and also individual freedoms, such as the right to live in dignity, is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. As mentioned in the text, no individual's freedom or life shall be deprived unless in conformity with recognized legal procedures. This means that a person's individual freedom and existence can only be contested if a crime is committed. As a result, the government can restrict or deny the right to life through civil safety and legislation, as long as the method prescribed by law is followed.

Landmark Supreme Court judgments on death penalty in India:

  • Jagmohan Singh v. the State of UP (1973): SC held that according to Article 21, deprivation of life is constitutionally permissible if that is done according to the procedure established by law.

    Thus the death sentence imposed after a trial in accordance with legally established procedures under CrPC and the Indian Evidence Act 1872 is not unconstitutional under Article 21.
  • Bachan Singh v. the State of Punjab (1980): SC propounded the dictum of 'rarest of rare cases' according to which death penalty is not to be awarded except in the 'rarest of rare cases' when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed.
  • Machhi Singh v. the State of Punjab (1983): SC laid down certain considerations for determining whether a case falls under the category of rarest of rare cases or not.

The way forward
A number of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) in India are actively striving to end inhuman treatment and protect human rights. Even though the judicial system has developed the concept of "rarest of rare cases" indicating that the death sentence must be levied only in exemplary and exacerbating conditions where offences are extremely serious, the principle's implementation, as evidenced by a slew of instances, is in contravention of provisions of the constitution.

"God has given us life, and hence only he has the authority to take it back", as per Justice V.R. Iyer, who spoke out against the capital punishment. The government has no authority to revoke a person's right to life. This is pure dehumanization on the part of the government. As a result, the death sentence method must be defined as a human rights violation as well as unjust.

The negative aspects of death sentences must be considered by the state, and actions must be taken to remove such clauses from the legislation. Even though the frequency of actual killings of inmates facing the capital punishment is plummeting, much needs to be done to expedite the process for those on trial and to meet India's international obligations.

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