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Death Penalty Information

Monday, October 30, 2006

India: Debate continues
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Capital punishment: A question left hanging?

Is death penalty akin to murder at the hands of the state? Is hanging the
most inhuman way to end a criminal's life?
The hangman's noose... is meant only for crimes most heinous. In fact, a
crime that must be abominable enough to make the state a murderer, or is
just fair justice being meted out? Does capital punishment have a place in
a modern, democratic society? As India battles these questions again with
respect to Afzal Guru, an accused in the Parliament attack case, there are
many who want a dispassionate and a humanitarian look at this vehicle of
justice. TR Andhyarujina, former solicitor general, says, "While the
tenets say a death sentence should only be given in the rarest of rare
cases, it doesn't work that way. What are the standards set in this
regard? None. Statistically also, it has been proved that hanging doesn't
act as a deterrent. Also, it is one of the most inhuman ways to kill
Former law minister and senior advocate Shanti Bhushan seconds this,
"Capital punishment needs to be abolished immediately. For this, we need
the collective will of Parliament to bring in this change, for the courts
have time and again upheld the death penalty. And till that happens, at
least we can give prisoners dignity in death using means that are
comparatively painless, for instance, lethal injections. There is no place
for the spectacle of hanging in a civilised society."
But there are vociferous demands from the other side too. Former joint CP,
Delhi Police, Maxwell Periera feels that demands asking for the abolition
of capital punishment are negating law enforcement. "Despite the fact that
nobody wants death penalty, it is very much there in statuette books. The
condition of the country's justice deliverance system is such that its
removal will have repercussions on the country's law and order process.
That is the reason why the courts not only uphold it but are also
enhancing it. However, the mode of execution should be painless and
But objectivity is hard to achieve, given the circumstances of the present
case. With vocal protests from both sides of the divide, will justice be
able to prevail? Activist Madhu Kishwar puts it in perspective when she
says, "While personally I am not in favour of a death sentence, at the
same time, if you can kill others for your rights, others can exercise the
same right on you too. But yes, in such cases, the trials should be
extremely fair."
And fairness of the trial is what senior advocate Ram Jethmalani is
raising a finger at. 'The question is whether this man has been found
guilty and if it conforms to the standard of fairness regarded by a
civilised judicial system. And the answer is no," he has said. Only there
are no retakes in death penalty. Yet another reason why it needs a
(source: Times of India)
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