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Law Commission’s no to death penalty: Govt unlikely to say yes

It would be interesting to see what how the Supreme Court responds to the Commission's view with regard to "rarest of rare" doctrine.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber |
Updated: October 7, 2016 5:06:55 pm
death penalty, death penalty abolition, capital punishment, law commission, law commission 1962 report, narendra modi, abolition of death penalty, law ministry, abolish death penalty, human rights, death sentence, supreme court, India news, nation news Even the suggestion that the death penalty be retained in the statute books for terrorism-related offences and waging war against the country while abolishing it for other crimes is not likely to find any takers.

The landmark report of the Law Commission of India recommending the abolition of the death penalty from the statute books is, however unlikely to sway the views of the Narendra Modi government which is set to ignore the report.

A clear indication of this was the dissent notes submitted by the Union Law Secretary P K Malhotra and his counterpart in the Department of Legislative Affairs, Sanjay Singh, both of whom took the stand that time is not ripe for death penalty to be abolished.

Even the suggestion that the death penalty be retained in the statute books for terrorism-related offences and waging war against the country while abolishing it for other crimes is not likely to find any takers.

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While the Law Commission report was yesterday submitted to the Law Ministry, which is the administrative ministry for the commission, no action — including an announcement that the government would not accept the recommendation — can be expected any time soon. The reason is that the government is of the firm opinion that with the threat of terrorism still very high, the time is not ripe for any tinkering with the death penalty.

But, a cursory reading of the responses that the Law Commission received to its questionnaire on the death penalty suggests there are many, including those from the political class, who feel the death penalty has no space in a civilised country like India.

However, the government is citing the Commission’s 1962 report on the death penalty to buttress it stand. In that report, the Commission had opposed any suggestion to abolish death penalty.

Since the government is unlikely to accept the Law Commission’s report, the view of the Supreme Court on the issue – the report has also been submitted to the Supreme Court — will be crucial. For in the report, the Commission has also questioned the “rarest of rare” doctrine established by the SC, adding that the administration of the death penalty, even within the “restrictive environment of rarest of rare doctrine”, was constitutionally unsustainable.

It would be interesting to see what how the Supreme Court responds to the Commission’s view with regard to “rarest of rare” doctrine.

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