Capital Punishment & Rape

The Supreme Court’s dismissal of review petitions of all four convicts in the Nirbhaya case has brought them a step closer to capital punishment. If we look at the experience from the past, it is clear that death penalty as a measure to end sexual violence has failed completely. Criminal justice systems across the world have lost confidence in this mode of punishment and today two-thirds of the countries have given up on this mode, but we continue with this practice.

Principle of Natural Justice

In the system of criminal justice, the element of sentencing is the theory of punishment. It is a classical law which states that there should be four elements of systematic punishment – the protection of society, deterrence of criminality, rehabilitation and criminal’s reform and intended effect for the victim & society. In its very essence, capital punishment goes against the theory of punishment and natural justice.

Looking at the protection of society, the purpose is not served by imposing a death penalty. There are several factors which affect criminal activity and deterrence is one among them. The Justice JS Verma committee report talked about capital punishment being regressive and recommended life sentence for the most heinous crimes.
The reform and rehabilitation of a criminal is also nullified due to capital punishment.

A study of death row conflicts shows it being skewed against the weaker sections of the society as they lack the adequate assistance. The Death Penalty project has shown wrong capital sentencing being carrier out. Due to the increase in violence against women, it is imperative for the judiciary to not give in to the public pressure to make capital sentence mandatory. It cannot be an alternative to logic and reason and there needs to be a better enforcement of law rather than death penalty.

Question for UPSC Mains:
In light of the recent heinous crimes against women, comment on the need for mandatory capital punishment for rape convicts.

Published: December 19, 2019 | Modified:October 15, 2020

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