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Capital Punishment

Capital punishment, Death Penalty, or execution is the infliction of death upon a person by judicial process as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The practice of capital

Punishment is as old as government itself. Capital punishment or in easier terms the death penalty is applied to people who have done various forms of bad behavior. Method of execution are crucifixion, stoning, drowning, impaling, and beheading but in such present time execution is formed by lethal gas or injections, electrocution, hanging, or shooting.

THE DEBATE whether the death penalty should be abolished or not is one of most long lasting and impassioned debates going on in the civil society and political sphere in India. Some subscribe to the "eye for an eye" or "life for life" philosophy, while others believe that sanctioned death is wrong. Former Chief Justice of India and now NHRC Chairperson K G Balakrishnan has favoured continuance of this provision, but he seems to have forgotten the other side. Most supporters of death penalty believe that it is justified on one or more of the following grounds: as means of revenge/justice, as a deterrent to others, to prevent any danger of re-offending and it is cheaper than life imprisonment where criminal will stay whole life in prison on tax payers' money.

But some human rights organizations oppose the death penalty on one or more of the following grounds: killing someone is always inhuman and it is like murdering legally, there is no evidence of deterrent effect ( indeed the available evidence seems to show there is no effect), life without parole is just as effective a way to prevent someone re-offending as finishing them, saving money can never be a justification for taking someone's life and mistakes are bound to happen. In India, death sentence was last carried out in 2004 when one Dhananjay Chatterjee was hanged for rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Kolkata. Here the question to ask is, has the execution of Dhananjay Chatterjee stopped rapes in our society? Has the number of rape cases declined? No, these crimes are increasing day by day. If we look at hanging cases, there is hardly any positive effect of death penalty.

In my view if we look at our national crime statistics, death penalty has not proved to be a deterrent. The reality is that the death penalty is a barbaric exercise in which no civilized society should participate. Capital punishment is a flawed aspect of the judicial system in our country. So many instances prove that the criminal justice system (CJS) is riddled with errors, corrupt officials, and flawed practices, yet this system is still permitted to execute people. The system needs an overhaul. The death sentence to the terrorists evades logic as a fidayeen (suicide attacker) like Kasab and Afzal Guru would only embrace death as their means to martyrdom. These people are already prepared to die for beliefs. Besides this, their execution will not guarantee end of further terror attacks against the country but would rather be used by the extremist masterminds to instigate violence and more hatred against India. If we are serious about dealing with terrorists, we could do worse if we follow the Israeli example.

The death penalty has no place in modern society, so nobody's surprised that it's still used in India, China and the United States. There is a punishment worse than death; make the convict endure endless discussion about capital punishment. The rigorous life in prison would be a far worse punishment than a swift death and in the case of terrorists, they took the job fully prepared to die for their cause. The death penalty serves only to assuage a misplaced public sense of retribution and as a tool for pandering politicians.

I strongly feel, we have to reform our laws especially for death penalty. Our laws should be such that a punishment should be so rigorous that it should remind not only to the offenders/ terrorists/culprits but also it should be a living example for the people around him about his inhuman acts. Each day and night, he should regret his acts of crime and at the same time it should act as deterrent.

Aparna Pandey