There is always a debate on whether capital punishment, to be specific death penalty, should be abolished or retained for ordinary crimes. In my opinion, it should be abolished. In this view of mine, I don’t stand alone.  As of 2018, 142 countries have abolished death penalty either in law or practice. Whereas, 56 have retained the power, in which category India falls.

So, why should it be abolished in India? Let’s try to answer the arguments the opposite motion often raises with facts, and set some alternative arguments that support the motion of abolishment.

First, it is irreversible. What if the judicial system committed a mistake, and someone is hanged based on it. Later, when the system realizes of its mistake, how will justice be served to a dead prisoner? When I claim the system can make mistakes, I would like to have the Supreme Court as my advocate, when it said, to cite an NDTV report, “To err is human and not one of us, who has held judicial office, can claim that we have never passed a wrong order,” a bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said in their order passed last week.”So, if mistakes are made, who will be responsible for an innocent hanged? Or will he be just a collateral damage of the entire ‘good’ system?

Second, even if the judiciary system was spot on to order death penalty to a criminal, who can assure that the same legal judgment can’t be used as a precedent for other similar cases in other legal institutions? No-one, as it will be. Just like no one can guarantee that some of the other cases will not be fake, and meticulously well-planned to frame someone. In that scenario, if the same death penalty is ordered to an innocent, will it be justice?  Now, consider the first point and second point together, how dangerous does it sound? Just think once. And, for the idealists, let me tell you, false cases are a reality.

When we say precedent here, it means stare decisis, which is to stand by the decision, and is based on the principle that similar cases should be judged similarly, if I am not wrong.

Third, it is futile, and alienates a person from the first right of a human being- the right to life. Why is it futile? Because there is no scientific or empirical evidence of it acting as a catalyst in reducing the crime rate. On the other hand, a study carried out by Professor Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock of the University of Colorado showed how 88% of the leading criminologists believed death penalty to be futile. Also, the 2000 New York Times report ‘ABSENCE OF EXECUTIONS: A special report.; States With No Death Penalty Share Lower Homicide Rates’ agrees with abolishment motion when it writes, “…Indeed, 10 of the 12 states without capital punishment have homicide rates below the national average, Federal Bureau of Investigation data shows, while half the states with the death penalty have homicide rates above the national average. In a state-by-state analysis, The Times found that during the last 20 years, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 48 percent to 101 percent higher than in states without the death penalty.”So, these facts are enough to prove the futility of the experiment.

Fourth, to my crude opposition to inhumanity, the supporters might argue of the criminal’s heinous crime, and the inhumanity of the act.  I agree to the part that considers it a heinous, brutal and inhumane act, but what we must understand is that law isn’t a medium of revenge, but of justice. Justice needs to be fair. Killing a person who killed someone is revenge with no practical, long term merit, but a fair amount of demerit. Also to point out, which crime is more heinous and which isn’t, how do we measure that? Even most alike crimes have differences, so how do we bring fairness while ordering justice? Another point that the supporters often claim to be the judgment in this case is the popular support. But, is the crowd voting in favor of it truly aware of the reality? To answer the same question- US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall suggested that support for capital punishment among citizens would decline if Americans were aware of the facts of its application (Mathew Robinson).

Fifth, the death penalty is sometimes discriminatory in nature and has its own set of prejudices as even the judicial personnel aren’t free from societal stereotypes. In the words of Marshall, “I believe the following facts would serve to convince even the most hesitant of citizens to condemn death as a sanction: capital punishment is imposed discriminatorily against certain identifiable classes of people; there is evidence that innocent people have been executed before their innocence can be proved; and the death penalty wreaks havoc with our entire criminal justice system”. Thus, something which has such a high probability of discriminatory and wrong judgments, why should India as a country endorse that experiment?

So, with these five arguments, I rest my case in support of abolishment of death penalty in favor of human rights of global citizens.

Sutputra Radheye is a poet and commentator who delve into the themes affecting the socio-eco-political scenario. His works have been published in prestigious platforms like ‘Frontier’, ‘Countercurrents’, ‘Janata Weekly’, ‘Culture Matters’ (UK), and many more throughout the years.


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