Oxford English Dictionary describes capital punishment as an offence or charge which is liable to death penalty. The word capital comes from the Latin word, ‘capitalis’ which means ‘from the head’.
While over 140 countries in the world have abolished capital punishment for most crimes, a healthy number of fifty five countries still actively participate in awarding death sentences to convicts.
The only silver lining in the modern world is that nearly all countries prohibit the execution of convicts who committed the crimes when they were juveniles.
The Indian courts in 2014 had sentenced over sixty people to death, which makes India rank among the top ten countries where capital punishment still exists.
— Pranay Gupte (@PranayGupte) August 3, 2015
After the execution of Dhananjoy Chatterjee in Alipore Jail in 2004, India had imposed an unofficial moratorium on executions, which ended in November 2012 when Ajmal Amir Kasab was hanged in Pune’s Yerwada Jail for waging war against the country in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Two months later, Afzal Guru, who was a convict in the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament, was also hanged in the Tihar Jail.
Interestingly, both these executions were done without any public notice.
Under Article 72 of the Indian Constitution, the President has been bestowed the power to grant pardons and to remit, commute and suspend death sentences in certain cases.
WHY CAN’T WE?
It is also ironical that while awarding the death penalty, the time spent in the jail is never acknowledged. In India, it has been seen that convicts on death sentence spend a good part of their lives in the jail before their sentence for execution comes up.
An important point to note here is that ever since Canada abolished capital punishment, the murder rate has dropped by 44 per cent through effective rehabilitation and extensive police work.
The idea of killing someone who has killed someone close to you is simply carrying on the chain of violence, which in the end destroys both parties.
Back in the 1980s, the Supreme Court of India restricted the use of capital punishment by characterizing it as a punishment reserved for the ‘rarest of rare cases’. However, over the past two decades, the death penalty has been handed down with increasing frequency and includes a number of crimes.
There are serious flaws in capital sentencing in the country. It has been noted that in several cases, conviction for death sentences has been given on circumstantial evidences. Also, the use of DNA evidence is not always preferred by the Indian Judiciary which often clouts the judgment of alleged convicts.
The misbelief that crueler punishments deter criminals from indulging in criminal activities in the future is farce, because a criminal doesn’t often think of the consequence before committing the crime.
One can question the judiciary, on who gives them the responsibility to take someone’s life? Yes, a convict has committed a crime, and for that reason, he needs to serve his sentence in the jail but awarding him death sentence, makes us killers too.
Finally, giving death penalty has never been approved by any religion around the world.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had once stated his annoyance to capital punishment by saying “I cannot in all conscience agree to anyone being sent to the gallows. God alone can take life because he alone gives it.”
Perhaps, it is time for India to once again learn from the Mahatma, and do away with the practice of capital punishment.