“The old law of an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”- Martin Luther King Jr.
What is Death Penalty?
Death penalty or capital punishment is a government – sanctioned practice where a person is put to death via state as a punishment for a crime. This type of punishment is given in very serious cases of criminal activities such as rape, child sexual abuse, murder, mass murder , terrorism, crimes against humanity etc. the sentence that orders punishment for a person is called a Death Sentence and can only be issued by the court of law. The practice of carrying out such a sentence is known as Execution. In India, however the demand and support for the the death penalties have increased since 2010 on the advent of serious cases of rape and terrorism, however the actual executions are comparatively rare. As per Article 21 of our constitution, deprivation of life of anyone is considered unconstitutional. But it also says that if there is ‘a procedure established by law’ then the state can deprive a person for his right to life. However, it is awarded in cases of hardened criminals and only in the rarest of the rare cases.
Arguments in favour of Death Penalty
According to JS Mill, All humans know the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong, it’s in human nature to break the law. The criminals who commit serious crimes do not have the capacity to be virtuous and are nowhere reaching a desirable end, hence capital punishment is justifiable for greater utility of society.
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- Deterrent Theory of Punishment
Death penalty acts as a deterrent. If the death sentence is removed the fear that comes in the mind of the people before committing a heinous crime will be removed. Also, if a criminal is on death row for many years he is likely to suffer more than just depriving him of life.
2. Elimination of criminals
When the public peace is put at risk by brutal crimes such as mass murder, terrorism or unforgivable rape cases death penalty is the only means of eliminating these crimes. Society must be protected from the risk of second offences by a criminal who is not executed but released and again tries to commit life risking crimes.
3. No scope for reformation
Justice demand that those convicted of heinous crimes of murder to be sentenced death. In some cases where the morality of the entire society is shaken, the death sentence is the only punishment which can be given. For example- the terror attack of 26\11 and the recent brutal rape cases.
Capital punishment also saves the resources of the state, some proponents also say that the tax payers money should not be wasted in the ‘decades of appeals’ instead the hardened criminal should be executed.
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Arguments against capital punishment
“Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders”- Albert Camus
The death penalty does not serve the penological goal of deterrence more than life imprisonment. If a person is sentenced in India for life imprisonment for his serious crimes, he is imprisoned for about thirty to sixty years till the end of his life. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth has no place in our constitutionally mediated criminal justice system today. In case of brutal crimes, it is very difficult to distinguish cases where the death penalty has been imposed and those where life imprisonment can be applied. There is no principal method to distinguish the two.
Safeguards in the law have failed to provide a constitutionally secure environment for the prisoners. The prisoners on death row face extreme agony, anxiety and deliberating fear of execution. An amalgam of such unique circumstances produces a form of psychological and physical abuse or even torture for the death row convict.
According to Aristotle, everybody has a capacity to be virtuous and believe that one who did the crime still has a value in society and does not deserve to die.
The question whether executing a person is ethically correct or not has been debated for centuries. It is a conflict between what is ethically right and what is legally right. The general moral issue is whether it is correct to deprive a human from his life or not. The Law Commission of India, in a report recommended the abolition of capital punishment for all crimes except for those involving national threat or terrorism related offences.
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