It is disheartening that the parliamentary committee tasked with examining the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), the proposed replacement for the IPC, did not recommend the abolition of the death penalty.
- Government Policies & Interventions
- Issues Arising Out of Design & Implementation of Policies
Abolition of death penalty should form the core of any reform in justice system. Discuss. (10 marks, 150 words).
The Committee’s View on Death Penalty:
- Despite input from experts and jurists advocating for abolition, the standing committee on Home Affairs opted for a vague suggestion “that the matter may be left for the government to consider.”
- The committee’s observation is limited to acknowledging the argument against the death penalty, namely the potential fallibility of the judicial system leading to wrongful executions of innocent individuals.
- Despite compelling submissions by domain experts before the panel, such as the increasing instances of trial courts imposing death sentences and statistical trends indicating a decreasing inclination towards capital punishment by the Supreme Court of India, the committee did not take a definitive stance.
Arguments Against Death Penalty:
- Social scientists presented evidence that the death penalty lacks deterrent efficacy, and global opinion favors its abolition.
- From 2007 to 2022, the Supreme Court imposed the death penalty on only seven individuals, and in 2023, all death sentences were either set aside or commuted to life as they did not meet the criteria of being the “rarest of rare cases.”
- Members who dissented in their notes emphasized that capital punishment is not a deterrent, advocating for life imprisonment without parole as a more severe punishment that allows for rehabilitation.
- They also highlighted that many individuals on death row come from underprivileged backgrounds.
- Additionally, the dissenting members pointed out that the three Bills proposing a new set of criminal laws closely resemble the existing IPC, Code of Criminal Procedure, and Evidence Act. If Parliament decides to proceed with enacting the draft Bills, incorporating changes recommended by the parliamentary panel, it would be appropriate to use this opportunity to reevaluate the necessity of retaining the death penalty.
- The BNS has explicitly defined ‘life imprisonment’ as confinement for the remainder of one’s natural life, advocating for it to be the default alternative to death sentences.
- The argument for abolition would be strengthened if the practice of seeking the premature release of life convicts for political reasons is curtailed, and life terms without parole become more commonplace.
Emphasizing that remission should be a humanitarian act and not a source of political controversy, a substantive reform in the justice system would involve removing capital punishment from the statute book and introducing a rational and universally applicable remission policy.