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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

In India, death row cases dealt extremely slowly

India's Supreme Court
The 2012 barbaric Delhi rape case has come close to its end, with the Supreme Court dismissing the review petitions of the accused. Even though the case went through a fast track court, accelerated by the mood of the nation, it took 6 years to reach its closing stage.

There are at least 477 prisoners awaiting death sentence in the country. India's rate of executing the death penalty is low; in the last decade (2007- July 4, 2018) only 3 executions (hangings) were carried out.

Some 132 death sentences were handed down each year by the courts, but the Supreme Court confirms barely 3 or 4 death sentences each year, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Since the accused are allowed a cycle of appeals and approvals are also pending with the President's office, the number of cases on death row tend to pile up.

According to a report titled 'The Death Penalty Database- India', by Cornell Law School in the US, as of 2016-17 there are at least 477 individuals under sentence of death.

Speaking to Deccan Chronicle Navkiran Singh, human rights lawyer practising in the Haryana & Punjab High Court, explained, "The accused always gets an opportunity to seek pardon before the President of India, who has the right to forgive. Most Presidents try not to decide on the pardon petition for various reasons including opposition to the death sentence by many people, especially human rights activists who believe that the death sentence does not act as a deterrent. The system also gives the opportunity to the accused to approach the highest court of law to get the death sentence converted to life imprisonment."

Lawyer Arvind Bhardwaj points out that several cases are delayed and pending because there is no legal aid during the trial.

"This apart, if cases are linked to any kind of political motivation, they proceed at a faster rate. Many times the pardon petition is pending with the President's office due to the delay caused by the council of ministers that is supposed to assist the President in decision making," he said.

Rape has lowest conviction rate in India among others


Among all cognizable crimes in India, rape has the lowest conviction rate. The overall rate of conviction of rape cases in India stands at 25.5 per cent as on December 2016.

If the death sentence is carried out on those convicted in the 2012 Delhi rape case, it will be the 1st time the death penalty has been executed in a case of rape. This was made possible by the ordinance and later act under which rape is punishable by death.

Aparna Reddy, a criminal lawyer, says poor conviction rates are due to shoddy investigations by the police. "With a weak chargesheet, victims are not able to get legal representation during a trial. Thus either there is a delay in the case or the accused gets acquitted. Also, declining conviction rate in rape cases ordinarily means fewer registered cases could be proved in court."

"Stringent implementation of laws and strict policing may help in reducing rape incidents, but the real change will come when abusers and rapists are consistently convicted for their crimes," says Sathvika Rao, member of a city based women and child welfare organisation.

Some 2,78,886 rape cases have been reported in India over the last 10 years under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. The conviction rate for rape, at 25.5 %, remains low compared to all cognisable crimes.

Also, so far no convicted rapist has been hanged. In 2013, then President Pranab Mukherjee passed an ordinance approving the death penalty if a rape leads to death or if it leaves the victim in a persistent vegetative state. Repeat perpetrators of aggravated rape also face capital punishment under this ordinance.

The ordinance became law in April 2013 as the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. The 3 convicted in the rape, mutilation and death of a young woman in Delhi 5 years ago could be the 1st to be executed for this crime.

Source: Deccan Chronicle, Coreena Suarez, July 11, 2018


Cannot Abolish Death Penalty Just Because Other Countries Have Done It, Says Supreme Court


Gandhi
The Supreme Court while upholding death penalty of Nirbhaya rape convicts observed that death penalty cannot be abolished in India only on the ground that other countries have done it, Live Law has reported.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra made this observation while dismissing the review plea. 

Advocate A P Singh said that the law was passed in a colonial era and that it was abolished in England and other Latin American countries.

Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, who represented the state responded by saying that it was for the parliament to amend the law and it has already been established in the case Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab.

Justice Ashok Bhushan who authored the judgement said, "The submission of Mr. Singh that death penalty has been abolished by the Parliament of UK in the year 1966 and several Latin American countries and Australian States have also abolished death penalty is no ground to efface the death penalty from the statute book of our country. So far the death penalty remains in the Penal Code the courts cannot be held to commit any illegality in awarding death penalty in appropriate cases."

Source: swarajyamag.com, July 11, 2018


Executioners hunt begins in MP


Gallows
With around 30 prisoners in jails across Madhya Pradesh been awarded death penalty in different cases, the state is on a hunt for executioners as currently there are no people at the post.

In December last year, Madhya Pradesh became the 1st Indian state to make rape of girls under the age of 12 a crime punishable by death.

However, to execute death penalties to prisoners, the state apparently doesn't have executioners. Such is the situation that executioners might be called in from different states.

"I believe there will be a big decline in the number of women harassment cases because of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's law for awarding death sentence to those guilty of raping girls aged 12 or below in the state. It's true that there are no executioners in the state right now, however, we will abide by the orders and will bring executioners from different places to hang prisoners. We will also recruit new executioners from Madhya Pradesh itself," jail minister Antar Singh Arya told ANI.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Rahul Kothari said: "In such cases, the Madhya Pradesh people will themselves serve as the executioners in such cases. The people in the state are against all such crimes."

However, the Opposition doubts the state government's stand.

"When we talk about death penalty, how will they do it without executioners? How will they give punishment to those accused of rape?" questioned Congress leader Manak Agarwal.

Source: webindia123.com, July 11, 2018


Death penalty can't prevent crimes against women: Amnesty


"Instead, the government must allocate adequate resources for the effective implementation of laws, improve conviction rates and ensure certainty of justice in all cases."

After the Supreme Court decided to reaffirm its verdict of upholding the death sentence to 4 convicts who gang-raped and murdered Nirbhaya, Indian chapter of the global rights group, Amnesty International, said on Monday that executions will not help in eradicating violence against women.

"Unfortunately, executions do not eradicate violence against women. There is no evidence to show that the death penalty acts as a deterrent for sexual violence or any other crime," Asmita Basu, Amnesty International India's Programmes Director, said in a statement.

"Instead, the government must allocate adequate resources for the effective implementation of laws, improve conviction rates and ensure certainty of justice in all cases.

"Even the Justice (J.S.) Verma Committee, whose recommendations were relied upon to reform laws on sexual assault and rape, had opposed imposing the death penalty in cases of rape," she said.

Noting that in April this year, the Central government approved an ordinance introducing death penalty for those convicted of raping girls aged 12 or younger, Basu said: "All too often lawmakers in India hold up capital punishment as a symbol of their resolve to tackle crime, and choose to ignore more difficult and effective solutions like improving investigations, prosecutions and support for victims' families.

Source: greaterkashmir.com, July 11, 2018


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

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