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A Case For Abolishing The Death Penalty.

By Sahana Rebecca Vijay

From burning witches at the stake to shooting spies and cowards during the Second World War, the death penalty has a long and, quite literally, painful history. It has long been viewed as a means of disposing off the scum of the earth. However, in modern society, over 106 countries have put an end to this eye-for-an-eye approach to criminal justice. India, unfortunately, doesn’t belong to this league.

Capital punishment may be construed as an act of vengeance rather than justice. While a murderer must rightly pay for their crime, by sentencing the person to death, we commit the same act as that of the accused. Do we have the right to take a human life? Can we as a society then claim to hold the moral high ground?

We can also find fault with the discriminatory nature of the death penalty. It unfairly targets the destitute sections of society who can’t afford the prohibitive cost of good legal aid. On the other hand, offenders who can, have better chances of escaping the guillotine. The same applies to people belonging to racial and religious minorities. In the game of legal hide and seek, a level playing field does not exist across all sectors of the community.

The irreversibility of capital punishment is one of the core arguments for abolishing this inhuman act. Mistakes are made and hence the risk of executing an innocent persists in every case. Especially in a country like India where the standards of investigation aren’t up to the mark, legal and factual errors are frequent. Often, political influence and corruption creep their way into cases thereby contaminating the judicial process. According to The Hindu, “Between January 1, 2000 and June 31, 2015, the Supreme Court imposed 60 death sentences. It subsequently admitted that it had erred in 15 of them (25%).” No posthumous exoneration can resurrect the person.

One of the biggest misconceptions regarding the death penalty is that it deters crime. Studies have shown that the death penalty is no better at preventing crime than life imprisonment is. A survey by the New York Times in the year 2000 found that during the previous 20 years, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty was up to 101% higher than in states without the death penalty. In fact, other research has proven that many states have witnessed a significant drop in crime since the abolition of capital punishment.

Every case involving a death sentence undergoes multiples rounds of appeal, review petitions etc., which is a lengthy and expensive process. Abolition of the death penalty will therefore reduce the taxpayer’s burden and will expedite proceedings.

According to Amnesty International, “The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it.” Punishments must be such that they give the criminal enough time to reflect on their crime and the impact it had on their family as well as the victim’s. I would contend that life imprisonment without parole would be much more effective in that aspect than a quick execution. Life imprisonment provides an opportunity to reform oneself and to be a positive influence on other inmates who may have a second chance out in the real world.


https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/death-penalty/ https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/is-it-time-to-abolish-the-deathpenalty/article25735508.ece https://theprint.in/opinion/india-needs-to-abolish-death-penalty-not-hang-2012-delhigangrape-convicts/358937/ https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/premiumbytes/with-many-countriesopting-out-of-death-penalty-is-it-time-for-india-to-do-away-with-it-too-31399/ https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-and-research/murder-rates/murder-rate-of-deathpenalty-states-compared-to-non-death-penalty-states https://www.cliffsnotes.com/study-guides/criminal-justice/sentencing/should-thedeath-penalty-be-abolished

By Sahana Rebecca Vijay

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