Death penalty is known as capital punishment. The word “capital punishment” is made of de capitation. It means to cut the upper part of a body. It is connected with capital offence. If we go through the history of crime and punishment, we come across harrowing tales of inhuman tortures inflicted on offenders by way of death sentence. The death penalty was carried out through fire, drowning, crucifixion, hanging, stoning in bailing ails, using sharp-edged weapons like swords, axe, breaking on the wheel etc. The main objective of such inhuman forms of punishment was that the offender should realise his guilt, repent and pay for his crime. Almost all the systems of the world, provided death penalty to the offenders
Position in India
In India, the Indian Penal Code provides for the death penalty under Sections 121, 132, 194, 302,303,305,307 and 396. In India, life imprisonment is a rule while death sentence is an exception. The landmark cases were Bachan singh vs. State of Punjab, where it was observed by Supreme Court that death sentence to be awarded in rarest of rare cases.
Article 72 and 161 of Indian Constitution make provision for pardon of death sentence even when it is confirmed by the Supreme Court of India. Thus in India, the position is that the death sentence is awarded only in exceptional cases.
Should there be death penalty for rape?
Rape is a heinous crime which not only affects the victim but also the whole society at large. It curtails the freedom of the whole woman community at large. The punishment for rape is provided under section 376 of IPC. At present the maximum imprisonment is for life. The woman organisations are demanding that death penalty should be imposed on the offenders in such offences, but is not it that with death penalty, the accused will try to eliminate the victim also because for both the offences, punishment can be imposed only once so that accused will try to kill the victim also. For the purpose of controlling the rape offences, effective enforcement machinery should be evolved.
In the present situation of indiscipline, violence and terrorism in India, the question arises as to whether we can go in for the experiment of abolition of capital punishment. While commenting on the question of abolition of capital punishment, the variety of the social upbringing of its inhabitants, to the disparity in the level of morality and education in the country, to the vastness of its area, to the diversity of its population and to the paramount need for maintaining law and order in the country at the present juncture, India cannot risk the experiment of abolition of capital punishment.
Some pragmatic solution
- The death penalty should not be abolished in India
- Death penalty should be awarded in rarest of the rare cases.
- Proper legal assistance should be provided to the accused who are awarded death sentence and unable to file appeal in High Court and Supreme Court
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