• Author Name: Anupama Kumari Rai
  • Details:  Advocate, Bombay High Court, B.Sc, LLM

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”- Mahatma Gandhi

Death penalty or capital punishment has been a controversial issue for many years in India. Argument for and against death penalty are based on moral, ethical, religious and legal grounds. The Constitution of India states that no person can be deprived of his life except through a lawful procedure (Art 21). It also gives the President and the Governor of the state the right to suspend, pardon, or commute death sentence. The Constitution of India also contains provision for judicial review and Appeal to higher court for death sentence.

In case of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutionality of death penalty. However, the Supreme Court stated in its decision that the death penalty should only be used in the “rarest of rare” cases. Threshold stating that “Judges should never be bloodthirsty“. Death must only be imposed where the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed.

The question is, under what circumstances are retributive and deterrent effects of a life imprison so certainly insufficient that death is the only answer? And can such an answer be delivered without human error? Capital punishment is impossible to administer fairly or rationally. The death penalty has not deterred terrorism or murder. No study has shown that the death penalty deters murder more than life imprisonment. Let’s assume that it has a deterrent effect than also the question is how does killing a person who has killed a person show that killing is wrong?

In 2015, the law commission called for abolition of death penalty for ordinary crimes, and activist continue to argue for abolishing it altogether. Political will of India is still bound by populism. However, the constitutionality of the death penalty will continue to be challenged and, sooner or later, the supreme Court have to answer whether absence of political will is sufficient ground for override the right to life which is a fundamental right guaranteed  under Constitution of India.

Hate can’t be stopped by hate and wrong can’t be remedy for wrong, it is the love and forgiveness which can.