oppn parties Death Penalty Must Be The Exception

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  • Finance Minister says she is receiving feedback from many sectors that recovery is happening as there is lower stress
  • Sabarimala temple opens, but police bar the entry of women below 50 years
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says Air India and BPCL to be sold off by March
  • Media person Rajat Sharma resigns as DDCA president
  • Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress postpone meeting the governor of Maharashtra
  • Shiv Sena not to attend the NDA meeting on 17th November, says break up "a formality"
  • Shiv Sena says that the confidence the BJP is showing about forming the government in Maharashtra is based purely on its expectation of getting numbers through horse trading
  • Anil Ambani resigns as director of the bankrupt Reliance Communications
  • India beat Bangladesh by an innings and 150 rums inside three days in the first Test. Indian pacers excel after Mayank Agarwal's double century
  • Sena-NCP-Congress work out a common minimum programme, will form the government soon and it will last 5 years, says Sharad Pawar
  • Income Tax Appellate Tribunal upholds the decision to withdraw the charitable status of Young India, making it liable to pay Rs 145 in income tax. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra are the majority shareholders in the company
  • CBI raids offices of Amnesty International across India
  • Supreme Court quashes NCLAT order against Arcelor Mittal and paves the way for the company to take over ailing Essar Steel
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says concerns of telcos will be addressed and no company will close down
Two Muslim litigants in Ayodhya refuse to accept the Supreme Court order, say review petition might be filed
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Death Penalty Must Be The Exception

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
The death penalty is imposed by courts in India for heinous or brutal crimes that fall in the domain of being “rarest of the rare”. The Supreme Court has never defined what constitutes rarest of the rare and has left it to the discretion of the judges to decide that. Hence, there is no consistency is such decisions by various courts.

The Supreme Court, in the case Sukhlal vs The State of Madhya Pradesh, has once again reiterated that although the crime might be extremely heinous or brutal, it still might not qualify for being rarest of the rare and the death penalty must not be imposed in such cases.

Sukhlal was awarded the death penalty for murdering a woman while in her employ as a gardener. The high court had upheld the sentence. But the Supreme Court, while commuting the sentence to life imprisonment with a cap of 18 years, said that “time and again, this Court has categorically held that life imprisonment is the rule and death penalty is the exception and even when the crime is heinous or brutal, it may not still fall under the category of rarest of rare.”

During September and November, the apex court has commuted a total of 14 death penalties – seven in each month - to life imprisonment. It included cases where there were triple murders, rape and murder and murder of a close relative. In the case of triple murder, the three-judge bench of Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Hemant Gupta were of the view that proper psychological evaluation should be made to judge the possibility and probability of reforming the criminal before awarding the death penalty.

In the instant case, the court cited the Bachan Singh judgment and said that “Bachan Singh (supra) in no unequivocal terms sets out that death penalty shall be awarded only in the rarest of rare cases where life imprisonment shall be wholly inadequate or futile owing to the nature of the crime and the circumstances relating to the criminal. Whether the person is capable of reformation and rehabilitation should also be taken into consideration while imposing death penalty.” The court asserted in no uncertain terms that the death penalty must be imposed only in the “rarest of rare case where the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed”.

The successive decisions of the apex court to commute the death penalty shows that the courts are coming around to the view that reforming and rehabilitating the criminal must take precedence over punishing him or her with death. At another level, it also shows that with crimes getting more and more brutal, it is becoming difficult to decide which one qualifies as rarest of rare. Even 20 years ago, a triple murder would have qualified as such. But now it does not. Hence, lower courts should take this into consideration and look for the “alternative option” before awarding or upholding the death penalty.