This Article is written by Kinkini Chaudhuri (currently a student of Amity University, Kolkata)
Table of Contents
Definition of Capital Punishment:
The other term for “Capital Punishment” is the death penalty, which is applied after an offender is convicted of commutant of a criminal offence. The words are derived from Latin words “Capitalis” which means “head”, which in other terms means “execution by beheading”.
In today’s generation, there are only 60 countries out of 195 countries that use the concept of capital punishment in their delivery of justice. Alongside, 106 countries have completely abolished the concept of capital punishment for all types of crimes, and 8 countries have partly abolished for some ordinary crimes and use the concept only for “rarest of the rare cases”.
History of Capital Punishment:
It has been derived that the concept of capital punishment was used in the Greek and the Roman period to This concept was applied only for incorrigible offences and was used in a wide range of offences including murder, treason, etc. The phrase “Lex Talionis”, which means “An Eye For An Eye” was applied by the Babylonian Code. In England, during the 18th century, capital punishment was considered to be a formal punishment for most heinous crimes.
From the 19th century onwards, capital punishment was used as an alternative form of punishment. Like, in Rome, capital punishment was given by drowning the offender or by crucifixion. In the ancient years, in China, those people who used to commit heinous crimes used to be sawed into half or were given death by thousand cuts method. One must remember that in the past, capital punishment used to be conducted in public and the bodies used to be displayed until they used to get rotten. Later, in England, this practice was banned in the year 1868 and in the year 1931 in the United States.
Pros of capital punishment: Some of the pros of capital punishment are as follows:
- In order to limit the number of heinous crimes in the society, a strong deterrent is extremely important, or else it will be found many people committing crimes and no there’s no way to reduce. Punishments are required in order to reduce the number of crimes and becomes a rare case, and is not repeated in the future. It helps to prevent in the first place.
- Death penalties try to eliminate the chances of escape for the consequences of a criminal’s actions. It trues to eliminate the chances of an illegal escape.
- There are some crimes which go beyond a limit and lies no place for rehabilitation. For such types of cases, capital punishment not only creates a deserved punishment equivalent to the crime committed but also provides safety for the rest of society. It also prevents the commission of such crimes in the distant future.
Cons of Capital Punishment: Some of the cons of capital punishment are as follows
- In a country like India wherein many cases justice seems to be an ideal type which is hard to get, there are many cases where innocent people come within the clutches of Death Penalty. Though an exact number for such cases is impossible to be checked, this is a fact which cannot be denied.
- Sometimes, it has been derived that capital punishments do not assist to meet out the purpose. This cannot be applied in a general crimes. Alongside, it cannot be applied on some of the violent crimes. Therefore, those states which have the highest number of crimes, cannot apply this form of punishment, as capital punishment can be applied only in “the rarest of the rare cases”.
- Capital punishment is sometimes applied on a wrong criminal, especially if the criminal wants to get rehabilitated. Capital punishment can be eliminated where there are possibilities to rehabilitate. It assumes that nothing can be done about an offender which are simply in violation of his/her rights.
Criteria for Rarest of the rare Case
The criteria have been clearly mentioned down in the celebrated case of Bachchan Singh v State of Punjab (1980), where the Supreme Court had formulated certain broad guidelines and said it should be given only when the option of awarding the sentence of life imprisonment is “unquestionably foreclosed”. It was left completely upon the court’s discretion to reach this conclusion. The Apex Court had also specified that it would be at the discretion of the court to reach the conclusion. A balance sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances in a particular case must be drawn to ascertain whether justice will not be done if any punishment less than the death sentence is awarded.
Judgement rendered by the Apex Court of India: Article 21 of the Constitution of India specifically states the right to life and personal liberty. It is a Fundamental Right guaranteed to any person on the land of India, be it a citizen or a non-citizen. Therefore, no person can be deprived of this right. This has been legally construed to mean if there is a procedure, which is fair and valid, then the state by framing a law can deprive a person of his life. Even after this, the Central Government at all times has tried to maintain the death penalty in the statute books to act that as a deterrent, especially for those who are a threat to society.
In the cases of Jagmohan Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh (1973), Rajendra Prasad v State of Uttar Pradesh (1979) and lastly in Bachchan Singh v State of Panjab (1980), the Apex Court has held the Constitutional validity of the death penalty. The death sentence can be awarded to the convict, only if it is found reasonable, just and fair, otherwise not. Thus, it clearly specifies that death sentences, also known as capital punishment can be awarded only in “special cases” or to the “rarest of the rare case”.
Types of Capital Punishments:
Several types of capital punishments are as follows:
- Electrocution: This method of capital punishment means that the convict is killed by making his/her tied to a chair and a high voltage current kills the man. It destroys the heart. A of 2015, only the states of Alabama, and Florida have the authority to kill a man through this option.
- Tranquilization: Through this method, slow yet painless death occurs. This is because a toxin injection is injected which takes several hours for the convict to die.
- Beheading: This method is generally used in the Arab countries. The public decides the punishment of the convict. This method simply means separating the head from the body of the person.
- Stoning: This method is also used in Arab countries, like UAE, Iraq, Saudi Arabia. Sudan, Somalia. This is also a painful method as the criminal is beaten to death until and unless the person dies.
Conclusion: In this 21st century, the purpose of capital punishment is almost clear to most of the people. Some people comment that capital punishment is justified because it’s used in the rarest of the rare case and is justifiable to the whole society in India. It creates a huge impact on the offender as it’s not only that the offender learns his/her lesson but the society as a whole learns.