Death penalty: SC moots fair hearing
#GS-02 Indian Polity
History of death penalty:
- Death penalty is also called Capital punishment from the Latin word ‘capitalis’ which signifies ‘regarding the head’.
- The earliest codification of death penalty laws dates back to the 18th century B.C. and can be found in the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon.
- Based on these laws it was possible to be executed for theft, perjury, and other crimes that today are punished much more lightly in most countries.
- However, the punishments were based on the social status of the accused.
- The Draconian Code of Athens, in 7th century B.C., made death the lone punishment for any and all crimes which resulted in the common usage of the term “draconian” to describe extremely harsh penalties.
Capital Punishment in India:
- The Indian Penal Code enacted in1861, prescribed capital punishment for offenses such as murder.
- While there were debates on removing the capital punishment in the constituent assembly, it was preserved to stay as a deterrent against those who aim to commit capital offenses such as murder, rape, terrorism etc.
- The Supreme Court in the Bachan Singh (1980) judgment decided that capital punishment should just be utilized only in the rarest of rare cases.
- However, the court has not described what characterizes the term ‘rarest of the rare’ and was left to the judgement of judges.
The Argument against death penalty:
- Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the Fundamental Right to Life and Liberty for all people.
- The death penalty is considered by many to be in violation of this right despite the Supreme Court repeatedly confirming its legitimacy through Jagmohan Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, in Rajendra Prasad v. State of Uttar Pradesh and lastly, in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab.
- The Gandhian philosophy of ‘An eye for an eye would turn the entire world blind‘, which has relevance even in a modern society.
- The primary aim of punishment in any modern society is to reform the convict and return him/her into society as a fully functioning member. Death Penalty removes the opportunity for this to happen.
- Death penalty has been abolished in over 109 countries, with many more making it applicable only in extreme cases. Hence, we must realise that the world is moving away from capital punishment.