Human Rights Law

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Justification For and the Abolition of Capital Punishment under Human Rights Law

  • Introduction:

Capital punishment is acting as a deterent factor, which reminds and thereby prevents humans from committing heinous crimes by the fear of law and punishment. It arouses sense of fear of death amongst the other people thinking about or contemplating crime. However, with the social evolution, consensus started forming amongst people as well as nations that certain practices like Death Penalty, Slavery, physical torture, etc. can no longer be tolerated. People feel that such practices may continue, but should be aberrations. Majority of the Countries in the world have abandoned Death Penalty. However no full consensus has developed against its’ use. One can observe that number of countries employing death penalty is declining year after year and it is possible that over a period worldwide opinion and pressure will influence all the countries to abandon it.

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  • History:

Death penalty or Capital Punishment has been practised world over since 16th Century. During those days, it was being awarded for petty crimes, which are now, more or less, punishable with imprisonments for much lesser period of time. In India, during Mughal Regime, no fixed norms were there for punishing any crime. However under British Rule in India, they used to follow judicial procedure, whether acceptable to Indians or not, for convicting an individual and if found guilty, award Capital Punishment. Good number of Freedom Movement Leaders were hanged to death by Britishers. In India, Britishers enacted a Law in the name of Indian Penal Code in the year 1860 and made provisions for penalizing crimes. In that IPC,1860, they provided a list of crimes liable for Capital Punishment. IPC,1860 has been in force in India even today with minor modifications here or there. Also, Article 21 of the Constitution of India provides that no person can be deprived of his life except according to the procedure established by Law. Besides IPC,1860, number of legislations enacted by the Parliament in India provide for the death penalty, latest being new anti-terrorism legislation for people convicted for terrorist activities and persons convicted for Brutal gang rape.

  • Procedure followed before execution of Capital Punishment :

After the accused is convicted and awarded death sentence by a Trial (Sessions’) court, the sentence has got to be confirmed by the respective High Court,to make it final. Once the sentence is confirmed, the condemned convict has option of appealing to the Supreme Court of India. If the SCI turns down or refuses to hear the appeal or if the convict wishes so without appealing to SCI, he can submit a ‘mercy petition’ to the President of India and the Governer of the respective state. The President (including Governors’) has the power to grant pardons,

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