Dissenters on commission say time not ripe for removing capital punishment

Dissenters on commission say time not ripe for removing capital punishment
Three members of the Law Commission dissented against the panel report calling for abolishing death penalty with Justice (Retd) Usha Verma arguing that there was no credible evidence to show that innocent persons have been executed due to their religion or caste.

Besides Justice Mehra, two government representatives in the Commission — Law Secretary P K Malhotra and Legislative Department Secretary Sanjay Singh — also gave their dissent notes.

Asked whether the government representatives’ notes show the Centre’s stand, Commission Chairman Justice (Retd) A P Shah said their job was to act as a “catalyst to start a debate”.

In her note, Justice Mehra said, “To err is human. Almighty alone is the dispenser of absolute justice. Judges of the highest court do their best, subject of course to the limitation of human fallibility. But that does not mean the provision of death penalty should be abolished in all cases irrespective of their gravity and heinousness.”

“Possibility of error should not be the reason to abolish death penalty,” she said adding, “how can a terrorist be reformed, whose main aim is to destroy the peace of the society, if not the society as such.”

Noting that only four hangings have taken place in the last 40 years, she sought to debunk the argument that Dalits and minorities were discriminated by handing over death penalty.

Referring to Yakub Memon, she said he was not poor and should have afforded the best of legal assistance.  Another dissenter, Law Secretary P K Malhotra said it was incorrect to say that prescription of death penalty was indulging in revenge killing or primitive or barbaric.

Noting that time was “not ripe” for death penalty abolition in India, he said, “While there cannot be two opinions that rights of the accused are to be respected, it is the victims and the society whose rights should get precedence over the rights of the accused.”

“Thinking of rights of accused person committing heinous crime at the cost of violation of rights of victims and safety of society will amount to misplaced sympathy with the accused,” he added.

Legislative Department Secretary Sanjay Singh argued that abolition of death penalty would result in crimes that are more brutal.

If death sentence was abolished, he said, the fear that comes in the way of people committing heinous crimes would be removed, which would result in more crimes that are brutal.

“Whoever, committing a premeditated heinous crime in an extremely diabolical manner, should not be allowed to go with life imprisonment or a lesser punishment on humanitarian grounds, as they do not deserve the same. The interest of the state is of paramount importance and any recommendation made in this regard may be considered as imposition of restriction on the powers of the state necessary to protect the interest of the country,” he added.

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