Business Standard

Devangshu Datta: The wrong use for hemp

There is no way error can be eliminated so completely as to ensure that only the guilty receive death sentences

Related News

Everybody may not love a good hanging but most people love talking about a good hanging, or alternatively, a frying, beheading, or lethal injection. The death penalty is one of those subjects upon which most people are willing to express strong opinions.

When United Nations resolution (GA-3) in favour of abolishing the death penalty was introduced, 110 nations voted for abolition, 36 abstained and 39 voted against abolition. India (which favours hanging), China (which shoots), US (which sometimes offers the condemned the difficult choice between electrocution or lethal injection) and (which beheads, and occasionally crucifies the corpse) were among the 39 voting to retain the death penalty.

The execution more or less coincided with GA-3 and led to a focus on it. But despite wanting to retain the death penalty, India actually carries out few executions through judicial process (encounters are different). There are currently about 300 prisoners on Indian death rows at various stages of the appeals process. In theory, they could all get the rope. But there have been only three hangings, including that of Kasab, since 1995. commuted many during her tenure as president.

This restraint contrasts with earlier years. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) cites data from the 1967 report of the of India to back claims that at least 1,422 executions took place between 1953 and 1963. There is no easy way to know how many executions occurred in toto between 1947 and 1994 since data only date back till 1995.

In 1983, the Supreme Court suggested that death sentence should be handed out only in the rarest of rare cases. However, the number of offences deserving the death penalty was also expanded, even as actual executions declined. A large-scale drug trafficker could get the chop now, for instance.

There are many reasons cited in favour of and against the death penalty. Advocates say that it has a deterrent effect and that it avoids wasting resources in keeping murderers incarcerated. It also offers society closure when a heinous crime is committed — a euphemistic way to say an execution is sanctioned revenge. The opponents point out that it is a massive violation of human rights.

In practice, most nations have elaborate appeals processes, which means that a condemned criminal spends a lengthy, indeterminate time on death row. So expense is scarcely saved. It’s also difficult to make the case for deterrent by citing data. It may be argued that places with high murder rates need the death penalty more and that the crime rate would be even higher if the penalty didn’t exist. Most nations with the death penalty do have high murder rates and some also have poor human rights records. Iran and Saudi Arabia award death for sorcery, adultery and apostasy. The People’s Republic of China shoots financially corrupt officials.

The US is a rich repository of data. Some US states execute; some don’t. The penalty has also been repealed and reinstated in some states. The murder rate is higher in some states with the death penalty than in some states without it. States that have tinkered with repeal also don’t seem to have seen much change in murder rates alongside repeals and/or reinstatements.

The key argument, to my mind, is that investigative procedures and judicial processes are imperfect everywhere. A Kasab – that is, somebody unquestionably guilty – is a rare bird in criminal jurisprudence. Amnesty International and other human rights groups cite multiple instances across nations where the wrong person was convicted and given the death penalty.

There isn’t much point in retrospectively pardoning somebody after execution. There is no way that error can be eliminated so completely as to ensure that only the guilty receive death sentences. Under those circumstances, hemp is better put to other uses.

Read more on:   
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|

Read More

Devangshu Datta: Expect the unexpected

The market continued to mark time as the last settlement of 2012 passed by. There was negligible change in net index levels. Most traders are ...

Most Popular Columnists

Ajai Shukla

Ajai Shukla: Kashmir floods - Army gains where media fails
Ajai Shukla

If perspectives of this month's flood disaster in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), especially the New Orleans-like inundation of Srinagar, were shaped ...

Nitin Pai

Nitin Pai: Xi Jinping - $100 bn is coming!
Nitin Pai

The current moment presents the Modi government with an opportunity to take advantage, but very carefully, of Beijing's inclination to offer economic incentives

Devesh Kapur

Devesh Kapur: Summitry over substance?
Devesh Kapur

Expectations from Narendra Modi's trip to the United States need to be more realistic

Advertisement

Columnists

Andy Mukherjee

Andy Mukherjee: Neighbourly lessons
Andy Mukherjee

Xi Jinping can tell Narendra Modi how to prepare a country for a flood of foreign investment

A K Bhattacharya

A K Bhattacharya: Time to worry about capex
A K Bhattacharya

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had surprised many experts and analysts by announcing in his Budget for 2014-15 that he would accept the fiscal ...

Vanita Kohli-Khandekar

Vanita Kohli-Khandekar: What India watches on TV
Vanita Kohli-Khandekar

BARC seems to have learned lessons from the Indian Readership Survey experience but can its proposed TV rating system avoid the same fate?

Back to Top