The Constitution of India guarantees certain fundamental rights under Part III from Article 12 to Article 35. Article 21 relates to Protection of Life and Personal Liberty. It lays down that No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
Then Supreme Court various cases has laid down that right to life does not only include right to live but also includes right to live with dignity, right to freedom, right to privacy, right to reputation, right to livelihood, right to shelter, right to medical care, right to clean and healthy environment, right to education, right to free legal aid, right to speedy trial and so on.
CONSTITUTIONALITY OF DEATH SENTENCE:
The constitutional validity of capital punishment is a subject matter of debate all over the world. Every human is entitled to certain basic rights which also includes right to life. Many argue that when a criminal is awarded a death penalty, it infringes his right to live. While it is also necessary that a victim should get justice, it is to be kept in mind that death penalty cannot be awarded in each and every case. The countries which have not abolished capital punishment, award this kind of punishment in rarest of the rare cases.
The United Nations has laid down certain guidelines for the protection of human rights in cases where death penalty is granted to the accused.
These guidelines are as follows:
- High standard of fair trial should be followed by every nation.
- The countries that have not abolished death penalty, should grant this punishment only in the rarest of the rare cases.
- Capital punishment should be given a retrospective effect and should be imposed by the law established for the time being in force.
- Any person below the age of 16, a pregnant women or a new mother or any person who suffers from insanity is exempted from death penalty.
- Capital punishment should not granted in cases where there is reasonable doubt or any further explanation.
- Any person to whom death penalty has been should have the right to appeal to the higher court and all the necessary steps should be taken to execute such right.
- Any person to whom death penalty has been awarded should have the right to seek pardon or commutation.
- While execution of death sentence, minimum possible suffering must be ensured.
In India, the constitutional validity of death penalty has been challenged before the Supreme Court several times. In case of Jagmohan v. State of Uttar Pradesh, it was argued that right to live is a basic human right and death penalty is violates this right and is against Article 21 and Article 14 of the Constitution. The Court in this case held that since death sentence as a punishment for murder is provided under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, it is difficult say that death penalty is unreasonable.
In Rajendra Prasad v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of death sentence. However, the Court also agreed that capital punishment would not be justified unless it is shown that criminal is dangerous to society. The Court further held that giving discretion to a judge to make a choice between death sentence and life imprisonment on “special reasons” under section 354(3) of Cr.P.C would be violative of Article 14 which condemns arbitrariness.
In Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, the question relating to constitutionality of death sentence was raised again before the Supreme Court. The Court, in this case, held that death penalty is not violative of Article 21 or the ethos of Article 19.
In Allaudin Mian v. State of Bihar, the Court rejected the plea that Bachan Singh’s case needs reconsideration by the Court.
In Machi Singh v. State of Punjab, the Apex Court held that death penalty can be awarded only in the rarest of the rare cases. The Court stated that life imprisonment is the rule and death penalty is an exception. The Court also emphasized that death penalty can only be granted in cases where life imprisonment seems unreasonable and inadequate.
In Mithu v. State of Punjab, the Supreme Court in spite of upholding the judgment given in Bachan Singh’s case, declared section 303 of the Indian Penal Code as unconstitutional. The Court stated that ‘ it violates the guarantee of equality contained in Article 14 and also the right conferred in Article 21’.
Death Penalty or Capital Punishment is an absolutely cruel and inhumane punishment which our legal system has retained. This punishment deprives a person of his basic human rights. convict or not. Death sentence is not only physically but also mentally brutal for the offenders. The condition of who are awarded death penalty is dreadful and appalling. Research has shown that convicts who are granted death sentence experience both physical and mental torture. These convicts go through mental trauma while they keep waiting for their execution. This act is inhuman and barbaric. The condition of these is so that bad that such a situation should not be faced by any human being.
While it is necessary to ensure that justice is severed to the victims of crime especially heinous crime, it is to be kept in mind that no person should be punished with a punishment as horrifying as death penalty. This punishment against the basic human rights as well as our Constitution and should be abolished.
- INDIAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW- MP JAIN
- LEGAL SERVICES INDIA- https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-5346-constitutional-validity-of-capital-punishment.html
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