End death penalty, keep it only for terror: Law panel tells government

In its 272-page draft report, the commission favoured speedy abolition of the death penalty from the statute books, except in cases where the accused is convicted of involvement in a terror case or waging war against the nation.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: September 1, 2015 3:58 am
death penalty, law commission, capital punishment, death penalty in terror case, law commission of india, supreme court India is one of 59 countries where the death penalty is still awarded by courts.

Over 53 years after it favoured retention of the death penalty in statute books, the Law Commission of India recommended Monday that the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and waging war against the country. This was first reported by The Indian Express last Friday.


Full text of Law Commission report

In its report, submitted to the government by commission chairman and former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah, the 10-member panel concluded that while death penalty does not serve the penological goal of deterrence any more than life imprisonment, concern is often raised that abolition of capital punishment for terror-related offences and waging war will affect national security.


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However, three members of the commission including two representing the Ministry of Law and Justice — Law Secretary P K Malhotra and Legislative Secretary Sanjay Singh — submitted dissent notes against the recommendation to abolish death penalty. The third dissent note was given by Law Commission member and former Delhi High Court judge Usha Mehra who referred to the rights of “innocent victims”.

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Questioning the “rarest of rare” doctraine, the panel said that administration of death penalty, even within the “restrictive environment of rarest of rare doctraine”, was constitutionally unsustainable.“After many lengthy and detailed deliberations, it is the view of the Law Commission that the administration of death penalty, even within the restrictive environment of ‘rarest of rare’ doctrine, is constitutionally unsustainable. Continued administration of death penalty asks very difficult constitutional questions… these questions relate to the miscarriage of justice, errors, as well as the plight of the poor and disenfranchised in the criminal justice system,” the report stated.

Pointing out that in the last decade, the Supreme Court had on “numerous occasions expressed concern about arbitrary sentencing” in death penalty cases, the panel said, “There exists no principled method to remove such arbitrariness from capital sentencing. A rigid, standardisation or categorisation of offences which does not take into account the difference between cases is arbitrary in that it treats different cases on the same footing. Anything less categorical, like the Bachan Singh framework itself, has demonstrably and admittedly failed.”

The commission also questioned the mercy petition system, provided for under the Constitution, saying, “The exercise of mercy powers under Articles 72 and 161 have failed in acting as the final safeguard against miscarriage of justice in the imposition of the death sentence.”

The report stated that from January 26, 1950 till date, successive Presidents have accepted 306 mercy petitions and rejected 131.

Referring to victims of crimes, the panel said in focusing on death penalty “as the ultimate measure of justice to victims”, the restorative and rehabilitative aspects of justice are lost sight of.

It said reliance on the death penalty diverts attention from other problems ailing the criminal justice system such as poor investigation, crime prevention and rights of victims of crime. It is essential that the state establish effective compensation schemes to rehabilitate victims of crime.

At the same time, it is also essential, the panel said, that courts use the power granted to them under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to grant appropriate compensation to victims in suitable cases.

“The voices of victims and witnesses are often silenced by threats and other coercive techniques employed by powerful accused persons. Hence, it is essential that a witness protection scheme also be established. The need for police reforms for better and more effective investigation and prosecution has also been universally felt for some time now and measures regarding the same need to be taken on a priority basis,” the report stated.



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  1. A
    Sep 1, 2015 at 11:29 pm
    I think it is also very imp to still have the death penalty an option for violence against women in our country esp considering the recent brutal killings of some in our country. Fear of punishment will keep many of the potential perpetrators in check. These sort of crimes should be categorised under crimes against humanity. Our society needs to improve by leaps and bounds when it comes to women's safety. So many office, college, school going women still face some minor or major harment on a daily basis and constantly fear their safety. Law makers have to be very, very careful as to not make this worse or embolden certain sections of our people into thinking that they can get away with a few years even if they commit brutal crimes of these nature.
    1. B
      Sep 1, 2015 at 7:36 pm
      Apart from Terrorists, hired killers also should be given capital punishment. They kill unknown people just for money without any previous enmity. If these hired criminals are not given capital punishment the society will soon become barbarian. These criminals come out on bail just in 15 days and commit more and more murders for money. They don't respect the law much. Because they have money power to influence to any level.
      1. M
        Modi first
        Sep 1, 2015 at 8:15 am
        Modi is the first in the list of top official terrorist! He is already famous as the top 10 criminal in the world along with Dagwood Ibrahim.
        1. K
          Sep 1, 2015 at 6:40 pm
          The crime is a thought much less an action hence the criminal thought needs to be curbed, the Capital punishment parishes criminals only but the crime still persists. One of the possible suggestion for heinous crimes could be a big share awarded to the victim or his family out of the movable or immovable property of the criminals, this deterrence would send the family of the criminal to a receiving end simultaneously, but this alone is not sufficient it must be coupled with harsh imprisionment rigorous without remuneration there couldn't be more harsh punishment in the World to toil hard without payment the criminal thought gets evaporated.
          1. Varun Chaitwal
            Sep 1, 2015 at 7:32 am
            how about the opposite? INCREASE Death Penalty - and hang Terrorists on conviction instead of years later?
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