Senior advocate and MP Ram Jethmalani on Saturday startled delegates at a symposium on abolition of death penalty in India by vehemently opposing the idea and stating that the possibility of incorrect convictions is “very minuscule”.
“I do not agree under any circumstances to abolish death penalty,” Jethmalani said, adding that the punishment was “highly desirable” in cases of terrorism, waging war and violent use of force to achieve political ambition.
The symposium on “moving towards the abolition of the death penalty in India’ was organised by the Penal Reform and Justice Association (PRAJA) India and the Penal Reform International (PRI) UK. Speakers at the symposium also included UK Member of Parliament Baroness Vivien Stern.
Jethmalani said punishment “necessarily means inflicting pain” and the argument that death penalty was a “cruel and unusual punishment” was a “highly misleading phrase”.
Analysing data from a study conducted by students of National Law University, Delhi, Law Commission chief Justice A P Shah said death penalty was awarded in cases where the accused was poor and represented by legal aid lawyers. “Murder cases require strenuous preparation, but these people are represented by raw juniors, who are not paid properly,” Justice Shah said.
Shah also pointed out that the raw data indicated that over 300-400 accused were given death penalty by trial courts, but very few were ultimately upheld by the High Court and the Supreme Court. He also said that the “way police investigates a crime” was “troubling” as courts had found that police were “implicating innocent persons” in several instances.