Capital Punishment And Its Contemporary Position

Capital Punishment means simply the death penalty in which it is a process where the crimes so grievous has been committed that the state condemns the act by sentencing the convicted to death. It is only applied in cases where the crime is of such nature that it cannot be vitiated without a penalty is an award for a person who is guilty of committing an offence of huge gravity coupled with unnatural brutality and essentiality in cases falling under what is so called as the “rarest of the rare cases”.

The utility of Death penalty as a mode of punishment for any offence and along with this debate runs a parallel discussion as to whether or not capital punishment should be retained as a part of criminal justice system or steps should be taken towards its abolition.

Read – Plea Bargaining in the Indian Criminal Justice System.

In criminal matters, therefore, it has been a common practice of providing punishment to the guilty. At the top the most severe punishment there is possible i.e., the capital punishment provided in the most brutal and grievous offences. Capital punishment can be traced back as early as 1750 B.C., in the lex talinois of the code of Hammurabi. the Bible too set the death as punishment for crimes such as magic, violation of the Sabbath, blasphemy, adultery, homosextuality, bestiality, incest and rape. the very first instances of awarding of capital punishment under a legal system can be traced back to the court of Hammurabi, in the 18th century B.C. whose idea of dealing with crimes was “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”.

Capital punishment is currently practiced in 58 centuries, including USA, Japan, Belarus, Cuba, and Singapore. As of 2012, there are 97 abolitionist states. Long abolished in countries like Chad, Australia, parts of Africa, Europe except for Belarus, the death penalty still stands strong and accepted mode of punishment in several other countries like Egypt, Srilanka, Bangladesh and China including ours. Capital punishment as a source of punishment in India has evolved amidst much hue and cry, be it the much sought after moral or religious viewpoints in respect of giving and taking away of lives or the continuous claims of the human right activists in reference to the rights of prisoners.
India took a firm stand against the rejection of capital punishment when it refused to keep up with the plea of the UN to remove capital punishment as punishment wherein it was signed and accepted by most other countries. Within the Indian subcontinent through discussions regarding the removal of death penalty were gaining momentum as a result of which in 1956 bill was passed in the Lok Sabha regarding the abolition of death penalty, but was rejected.

Later several reports by the law commission of India provided for a better picture of the issue. The 35th report put forward the risk involved in such utimely removal of the punishment of death penalty. Later the 42nd report, though did not advocate the complete abolition but suggested certain categories of persons and situations that must be removed from the ambit of the death penalty like-

  • Children below 18 years
  • Pregnant women
  • Those who attempt suicide

The recent judgment of Supreme Court of India as per as context of India Today Magazine of November 2018, – A three-judge bench comprising justices Kurian Joseph, Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta commuted the death sentence of a man and awarded him life term for murdering three persons including two women. Though the three judges differed on the applicability of death penalty, they were unanimous in commuting the death sentence of Chhanu Lal Verma. Referring to the 262nd report of the Law Commission, Justice Joseph said, “The Constitutional regulation of capital punishment attempted in Bachan Singh vs State Of Punjab in 1980 has failed to prevent death sentences from being ‘arbitrarily and freakishly impose’ and that capital punishment has failed to achieve any constitutionally valid penological goals, we are of the view the need for death penalty as a punishment, especially its purpose and practice.’’

Read – Dying Declaration – Sec 32(1) of Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Thus there is a clear indication that despite having lost of all hope, yet no frustration has set on the appellant. on the contrary, there was a conscious effort on his part to lead a good life for the remaining period. A convict is sent to jail with the hope and expectation that he would make amends and get reformed.

Pushkar Pushp

Content Writer, Law Corner, 4th Year, B.Sc. LL.B, Central University of South Bihar.

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