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23 March 2023: Death Penalty

Why is this in the news?

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to provide data for a more dignified, less painful, and socially acceptable method of executing prisoners than hanging. The Supreme Court also mooted the setting up of an expert committee to review India’s method of putting its criminals to death. The focus is on a more humane method of execution, which would render death by hanging unconstitutional.

In 2018, the centre filed an affidavit in support of the death penalty by hanging. It had not found the method of execution barbaric, inhuman, or cruel compared to firing squads and lethal injections. The mode of execution, according to the centre, is a matter of legislative policy.

Legality in India:

In India, capital punishment is carried out under Section 354 (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which states that a person sentenced to death must be hanged by the neck until he dies.

In most countries, the execution of criminals capital punishment is done through lethal injections. Other methods of capital punishment include beheading, gas chambers, and so on.

Arguments in favour of capital punishment-

  1. Those found guilty of serious crimes deserve that punishment.
  2. It prevents reoffending.
  3. Serve as a complete justice for the victims’ families.
  4. Life imprisonment is more painful than a painless death.

Arguments against capital punishment-

  1. The value of human life – Because human life is valuable, even convicts have the right to life.
  2. Article 21 is a basic right, available to both citizens and non-citizens.
  3. Some people believe that the death penalty is cruel.

Stand of the UN: The United Nations Human Rights Commission advocates for the universal abolition of the death penalty because it focuses more on the right to life. Some experts believe that hanging is cruel and barbaric in comparison to lethal injection, which is used in the United States.

Stand of the Supreme Court in various cases

  1. In Jagmohan Singh vs. UP State, 1973, the court held that as per the definition of Article 21, the legislature can take the life of a person by proper procedure.
  2. Bachan Singh vs. the State of Punjab 1980—The death penalty is right if given in the rarest of rare cases. Some factors are considered when locating the rarest of rare situations, such as the motive for murder, the manner of murder, and so on.
  3. The Supreme Court also ruled that, while no other appropriate method of capital punishment is currently available, the death penalty for mentally ill people is unconstitutional.
  4. Deena Dayal vs Union of India In 1983, the court upheld the method, ruling that hanging is as painless as possible and causes no greater pain than any other known method.

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