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The Supreme Court has recently said that death penalty is not inhuman and it does not violate right to life and liberty.
The court has upheld the validity of death sentence under Section 364(A) of Indian Penal Code that deals with murder after kidnapping for ransom.
The SC said that the rising incidents of kidnapping and abduction for ransom not only by ordinary criminals but even by terrorists necessitate stringent punishment for those indulging in such activities.
The court has also made it clear that the situations where the act, which the accused is charged with, is proved to be an act of terrorism, threatening the very essence of our federal, secular and democratic structure, may possibly be the only other situation where courts may consider awarding extreme penalty i.e. death penalty.
But short of death, in such extreme and rarest of rare cases imprisonment for life for a proved case of kidnapping or abduction will not qualify for being described as a barbaric or inhuman so as to infringe the right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The 20th Law Commission headed by Justice A P Shah has recommended abolition of death penalty for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and waging war against the country.
Indian courts have awarded death penalties to more than 5000 people between 2004 and 2013, at an average of 5 convicts per year. More than 1300 of these death sentences were conformed and rest were commuted to life imprisonment. Only 3 convicts were executed during this period – Dhananjay Chattarjee, Ajmal Kasab, and Afzal Guru. The latest one is Yakub Memon, 1993 Mumbai blasts convict.
Except Dhananjay’s case, the other 3 are terrorism related cases. It seems that somehow, the courts are restricting the scope of death penalty.
The “rarest of rare case” doctrine was propounded in 1980 in the Bachan Singh case.
If there is an inordinate delay in execution of death penalty, then such cases may be considered for converting into life imprisonment.
According to Amnesty International, 140 countries in the world have abolished death penalty.
Even the International Criminal Court (ICC) has also abolished death penalty. But, India is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that governs ICC.
India has been voting against the UN resolution for moratorium on death penalty.
The proposed anti-Hijacking Bill also contains provisions for death penalty.