Death penalty is justified in cases of brutal murder: SC

Explaning reasons and instances where capital punishment could find their justification,the Supreme Court on Friday asserted that it was a change in the crime situation across the globe that quelled the voices for abolition of the death penalty.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: April 16, 2014 1:10 pm

Explaning reasons and instances where capital punishment could find their justification,the Supreme Court on Friday asserted that it was a change in the crime situation across the globe that quelled the voices for abolition of the death penalty.

Despite several judicial pronouncements over constitutionality of the death sentence,a Bench led by Justice G S Singhvi noted that jurists and human right activists persisted with their demand for abolition of the death penalty and made several attempts to persuade the central government to take steps for its abolition.

“It is a different story that they have not succeeded because in recent years the crime scenario has changed all over the world. While there is no abatement in the crimes committed due to personal animosity and property disputes,people across the world have suffered on account of new forms of crimes,” said the court.

While dismissing an appeal by Khalistani terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar for commutation of his death penalty to life term on ground of delay in deciding his mercy plea,the court pointed that the “monster of terrorism” had spread its tentacles in most of the countries of the world.

“India is one of the worst victims of internal and external terrorism. In the last three decades,hundreds of innocent lives have been lost on account of the activities of terrorists,who have mercilessly killed people by using bullets,bombs and other modern weapons,” said the court while citing excerpts from its 1994 judgment on upholding the constitutional validity of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA).

Referring to catena of judicial pronouncements,the apex court said “the votaries of ‘no capital punishment’” could not succeed in getting the death sentence removed from the statute book as neither the Parliament nor the Law Commission assented to the abolition.

“If the murder is committed in an extremely brutal or dastardly manner,which gives rise to intense and extreme indignation in the community,the Court may be fully justified in awarding the death penalty. If the murder is committed by burning the bride for the sake of money or satisfaction of other kinds of greed,there will be ample justification for awarding the death penalty. If the enormity of the crime is such that a large number of innocent people are killed without rhyme or reason,then too,award of extreme penalty of death will be justified,” said the court.

It noted that the President or the Governor should also take into consideration the nature of the crime,its motive and magnitude as well as impact on the society while deciding mercy petitions under Articles 72 or 161 of the Constitution.

The Bench also reminded the executive that the power vested in the President and the Governor was “neither a matter of grace nor a matter of privilege,but is a constitutional responsibility to be discharged keeping in view the considerations of larger public interest and welfare of the people”.

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