India should ‘move towards’ ending death penalty: Law Commission
India should “move towards” abolishing the death penalty and immediately restrict it to cases relating to terrorism and “waging war”, the country’s law commission said in a report published on Monday.
The Law Commission of India said the criminal justice system was in “deep crisis” due to a lack of resources and an overstretched police force, making the administration of capital punishment death penalty “fallible and vulnerable to misapplication”.
“The notion of ‘an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’ has no place in our constitutionally mediated criminal justice system,” it said in a 270-page report to the government.
“The Commission accordingly recommends that the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and waging war.”
It said that while the death penalty was no more of a deterrent than a life sentence, it was recommending an exception for terror-related cases because of concerns raised by lawmakers.
But it said the time had come for India to “move towards” abolition of the death penalty.
The Supreme Court has already said capital punishment should only be carried out in “the rarest of rare” cases in India, among a dwindling group of nations that still have the death penalty on their statute books.
But President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected a number of mercy pleas in recent years, ending an unofficial eight-year moratorium.
The execution last month of Yakub Memon for his role in a series of co-ordinated attacks that killed hundreds of people in Mumbai in 1993 triggered fresh debate over capital punishment.
The Commission said India’s reliance on the death penalty “diverts attention from other problems ailing the criminal justice system such as poor investigation, crime prevention and rights of victims of crime”.
In November last year, India voted against a UN General Assembly draft resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, despite calls from human rights groups.
The Commission said it held wide-ranging consultations with various stakeholders before reaching its conclusions.
“The Commission trusts that this report will contribute to a more rational, principled and informed debate on the abolition of the death penalty for all crimes,” it said.
“(It) sincerely hopes that the movement towards absolute abolition will be swift and irreversible.”