"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

India's Home ministry says death penalty can't be abolished

The Law Commission had recommended abolishing the death penalty except in cases related to terrorism

The home ministry has rejected the Law Commission's recommendation of abolishing the death penalty except in cases related to terrorism.

The commission's report in which the suggestion was made was forwarded to the ministry earlier last week by the law ministry for a decision since amendments to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) are in the jurisdiction of the former.

The home ministry was of the view that at present the death penalty cannot be abolished, 2 ministry officials said on condition of anonymity.

"We will also discuss the issue in detail with the law ministry over the next few days, but our view is clear that in the present situation, the death penalty should not be done away with," 1 of them said. "If required, we may seek some clarifications from the law ministry as well."

The 10-member law panel headed by former Delhi high court chief justice A.P. Shah in its report submitted to the law ministry on 31 August had said: "While death penalty does not serve the penological goal of deterrence any more than life imprisonment, concern is often raised that abolition of capital punishment for terror-related offences and waging war will affect national security."

While questioning the concept of awarding the death sentence in the rarest of rare cases, the commission observed: "After many lengthy and detailed deliberations, it is the view of the Law Commission that the administration of death penalty, even within the restrictive environment of rarest of rare doctrine, is constitutionally unsustainable. Continued administration of death penalty asks very difficult constitutional questions, these questions relate to the miscarriage of justice, errors, as well as the plight of the poor and disenfranchised in the criminal justice system."

The home ministry, however, believes the death penalty acts as a deterrent, at least in cases of sensational crime.

"The provision for death penalty in law has been kept for exceptional or extraordinary cases. For instance, if there is a gruesome case of rape and murder or an incident in which several members of a family are murdered for a property dispute or robbery," said the 2nd official cited earlier. "It is not just about terror-related cases only. The home ministry's view is that the time is not right to do away with the death penalty."

The government should pay due heed to the Law Commission's recommendations as these have been made after the commission examined the issue in great detail, according to lawyer Yug Mohit Chaudhry. Capital punishment is a shameful remnant of a medieval age and has no place in a modern civilized society, Chaudhry said.

At least 3 members of the law panel had given a dissent note, opposing the recommendation to abolish the death penalty. Law secretary P.K. Malhotra, legislative secretary Sanjay Singh and former judge Usha Mehra opposed the recommendation.

Parliament in its wisdom has prescribed death penalty only in heinous crimes, Malhotra said in his dissent note.

"The need of the hour is to retain it. We have a vibrant judiciary which is respected world over. We should have faith in the wisdom of our judges that they will exercise this power only in deserving cases for which the law is well laid down in various judgements," Malhotra noted.

Similarly, Singh maintained that the panel should not recommend something that has the effect of preventing the state from making any law in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of the country.

Source : livemint.com, Sept. 28, 2015

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