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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

India's SC junks petition seeking abolition of death sentence

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to re-examine the Constitutional validity of death sentence in the light of the evolving jurisprudence across the world to do away with the extreme punishment and dismissed a plea seeking abolition of capital punishment.

A bench of Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy refused to entertain a PIL pleading the court to revisit the relevance of death sentence in a modern society on the ground that it failed to act as deterrent and resulted in violation of human rights.

According to National Crime Records Bureau, the total number of death sentences handed out by courts between 1998 and 2013 was 2052, an average of 132 a year. But in most of the cases, awarding extreme punishment could not get approval from the higher courts. The SC confirms barely 3 to 4 death sentences each year. Over 64 people were awarded death sentence by lower courts in 2014, according to Amnesty International's Death Penalty Report 2015.

Although death sentence has been executed only in 4 cases in the last 15 years, civil rights groups have been very vocal about its abolition terming it "barbaric and a form of judicial killing". Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon was executed last year preceded by Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru (2013), 26/11 Mumbai attacker Ajmal Kasab (2012) and Dhananjoy Chatterjee (2004).

Advocate Mathews Nedumpara told the bench that the apex court in its various judgements had underscored the "vice" of arbitrariness in awarding death sentence. He told the bench that the 'rarest of the rare' theory, propounded by the SC 35 years ago, has been variedly and inconsistently applied which needed to be examined.

"There have been and always will be cases of executions of innocent people. No matter how developed a judicial system is, it will always remain susceptible to human failure," the petitioner said, adding, "At the time of Independence, the capital punishment was order all over the world, but with passage of time it came to be considered to be inhuman and it was abolished in all European countries."

Source: The Times of India, March 15, 2016

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