With the death sentence for Yakub Memon, one of the prime accused in the 1993 bomb blast case, followed the mercy petition by some; which was heavily criticised by most Indians. What followed (as expected) was the debate on various news channels and on twitter. The Yakub Memon reference ends here. I am just trying to explore whether we should have death penalty.

Going through the tweets and some columns here are the arguments for both the sides:

Arguments Against Death Penalty

  1. We shouldn’t be taking away a human life: Irrespective of the crime committed we don’t have any moral right to take away a human life.
  2. Sentencing  innocent to death : Sentencing someone to death when facts may later prove him or her innocent means a BIG INJUSTICE which can never be repaired/compensated.
  3. Death is never a deterrent: If we look at the statistics of crimes committed in the country and the number of people executed in any decade there are no substantial evidence whether the death sentence deters other criminals from committing similar crimes.
  4. Retribution should never be the aim: While seeking justice, retribution or vengeance should not be the motive. Vengeance and justice are two different things. So an eye for an eye; a life for life kind of logic is not justifiable.
  5. In publicised cases there are chances of bias: In more publicised cases, due to public and media pressure there is always a possibility of bias against the accused; thus denying his right of free trial.

Arguments For Death Penalty

  1. No fundamental right is without riders: Right to free speech, property, faith or any other right are not without riders. Riders being that they don’t violate other person’s right. Similarly most of the death convicts (If not all) are the people who have violated others fundamental right to live freely. So the death convict’s fundamental right to live should also have similar riders.
  2. Is only human life precious?: This is primarily just a counter statement for the people who are against the death penalty. What makes the human life so precious? Aren’t the life of other animals/living beings as precious as humans? After all killing those living beings also cause varied climatic calamities/food chain disturbances.
  3. Democracy provides fair trial: Almost all democratic countries do offer fair trial for both the parties involved in legal cases. Especiallly in India where we have lots of provisions of appeals and revision petitions.
  4. Death Penalty is given in only rarest of rare cases: As of date 171 criminals have been executed in Independent India (as per wikipedia), thereby reinforcing the fact that death penalty is given only in rarest of rare cases in India.
  5. Which penalty is a deterrent?: Another counter argument. If death penalty is not a deterrent then we should find another penalty which will demotivate criminals from committing such crimes. The next harsh penalty is a life term. But if a death penalty is not working in this category will life term be effective?
  6. The convict can be responsible for killings in future: If a terror mastermind is captured and instead of a death sentence is awarded with a life term; and a terror outfit, with whom the culprit may be affiliated, creates a hostage situation then it presents more problems and more importantly can result in more innocent killings.

My Opinion

There are many strong points on both sides which can not be neglected. The death penalty, in my opinion, should be retained until we find a better punishment for the criminal which will also serve as a deterrent for other criminals from committing the same/similar acts. Abolishing death penalty without strengthening the law and alternate better viable option can be more damaging to the society. Having said that death penalty should be used sparingly for rarest of the rare cases (which I think is the case in our country and should be continued).