After the Law Commission of India recommended abolishing death penalty except in cases of terrorism, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has taken a stand against capital punishment stating “death penalty is against basic human rights.” The Law Commission of India, after its 262nd report recommending the abolition of capital punishment except for terrorists, had written to the states and Union Territories across the country seeking their views on the issue.
Punjab’s Home Department had put up a file to the Chief Minister Office proposing state’s stand favouring death sentence in “rarest of rare cases.” But the CM disposed of the proposal and has asked the Home department to re-examine the matter. While making Amarinder’s stand clear, the CMO has noted : “The CM has seen and observed that death penalty is against basic human rights. Even though a person who has committed a crime is awarded punishment, he cannot be denied right to live. He has desired that matter should be re-examined.” The file was signed by CMO on Monday.
Amarinder’s stand holds importance as Punjab, having faced trouble-torn times for over a decade owing to militancy in the state, has been divided over the issue of dealing with terrorists. Death sentence to Balwant Singh Rajoana, assassin of former Chief Minister Beant Singh, became an emotive issue in Punjab in 2012 when he was sentenced to be hanged. A number of radical Sikhs took to streets to protest against his hanging. The Centre had then stayed his hanging, which has been pending ever since. Amarinder had taken a stand against his hanging when Punjab was virtually on the boil.
Another convict Devinder Singh Bhullar was sentenced to death for plotting terror attacks against former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini in 1991 and the then youth Congress president Maninderjit Singh Bitta in 1993. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court in 2014. After the Law Commission had sent the file to the state government, the Director, Prosecution and Litigation, had put up the file to the CM stating, “Death sentence may be imposed for capital offences of IPC and other laws. However, death penalty is not imposed by the courts save in the rarest of rare cases when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed. The courts are expected to exercise this power wisely having regard to the facts of the case and the gravity of offence and its severity or barbarity There are proper checks and balances in the regarding award of death penalty.”
The DPL’s note also says, “If death sentence is abolished, the fear that comes in the way of people committing heinous crimes will be removed. In fact, blanket abolition of death sentencewill not be conducive to the circumstances prevailing in India. Therefore, death penalty should not be abolished but it should be awarded on the doctrine of rarest of rare cases which has withstood the test of time.” The department will now re-examine the case and put the file to the CM before the state sends its stand to the Law Commission of India.