On Death Penalty

The continuation of death penalty evokes responses on the extremes and Rajya Sabha on Friday (Mar 4) could witness a peculiar situation when it considers two contrasting resolutions — one seeking abolition while the other argues for noose for rapists.

CPI MP D Raja will press for abolition of death penalty altogether through a private member’s resolution while Congress’ Rajani Patil would argue for adding death penalty for rape, incestuous rapes and commercial sexual exploitation of girls.

Though the result on these resolutions may not bring much changes to the statute, it could reignite a debate on the issue of death penalty.

Raja’s resolution was to be taken up on July 31 last year, a day after the execution of Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon, but could not due to continuing protests on several issues by Opposition.

In his resolution, Raja said the Supreme Court itself has “admitted to errors and miscarriage of justice due to arbitrary application of death penalty”. He has also cited A P J Abdul Kalam’s stand on the issue, saying the late former President himself had “felt pain in deciding” mercy petitions since most of the convicts suffered from social economic bias.

“Snatching away somebody’s life for crimes committed is not in consonance with evolving jurisprudence which embraces in its scope measures to reform the person and transform psychology in tune with the values of compassion and humanism. Committing a crime is more a sociological than a legal problem,” he added.

However, Patil wants “stringent provisions” of death “for rape on girls and women and also for commercial sexual exploitation of girl child and for incestuous rape on girls and women by suitably amending the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and other related laws”.

In her resolution, she said women who brave to venture out of their homes to work in the fields, establishments, shops and government departments and establishments are sexually harassed despite several laws have been enacted to prevent this menace.

The Law Commission, which Raja’s resolution also mentioned, had in August last year argued that punishment cannot be reduced to vengeance, and recommended abolishing death penalty for all crimes except terror cases.

It had also argued that research showed that there was no proof to suggest that death penalty acted as a deterrent.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 3, 2016)

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