United Nations to discuss abolition of #deathpenalty by June end: Ban Ki-moon

Press Trust of India | Updated: June 14, 2013 08:21 IST

United Nations to discuss abolition of death penalty by June end: Ban Ki-moon

United NationsUnited Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has hailed the growing momentum against capital punishment, while voicing concern that a some countries continue to impose the death penalty, often in violation of international standards.In a message to the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty, held in Madrid, Mr. Ban said that the full abolition of the death penalty has support in every region and across legal systems, traditions, customs and religious backgrounds.

Currently, more than 150 countries have either abolished the death penalty or do not practise it. Last year, 174 United Nations Member States were “execution-free”, he said.

“Despite these positive trends, I am deeply concerned that a small number of States continue to impose the death penalty, and thousands of individuals are executed each year, often in violation of international standards,” said the Secretary-General.”Some countries with a longstanding de facto moratorium have recently resumed executions,” he noted.

He said that death penalty is at times used for offences that do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” such as drug crimes, and a few States impose capital punishment against juvenile offenders, in violation of international human rights law.

Ban also pointed out that information concerning the application of the death penalty is often cloaked in secrecy, and that the lack of data on the number of executions or the number of individuals on death row “seriously impedes” any informed national debate that may lead to abolition.

“The taking of life is too absolute and irreversible for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by a legal process. Too often, multiple layers of judicial oversight still fail to reverse wrongful death penalty convictions for years and even decades,” he said.

This problem, he added, will be discussed at a UN panel in New York at the end of this month.

The UN General Assembly first voted on a moratorium in 2007, and again in December 2012, when it adopted a resolution calling for a progressive restriction on the use of capital punishment and eliminating it entirely for felons below the age of 18 and pregnant


Swiss Minister calls for ‘world without #deathpenalty’

Didier Burkhalter (left) with his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel García-Margallo y MarfilDidier Burkhalter (left) with his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel García-Margallo y Marfil (Keystone)

June 12, 2013 – 21:38

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has highlighted Switzerland’s commitment to the abolition of capital punishment at the opening of the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty in Madrid.

“Switzerland aims to ensure that those countries which have not as yet abolished the death penalty at least place a moratorium on its use,” he said in a statement released by the foreign ministry.

In it, he added that capital punishment was incompatible with the values represented by Switzerland and had an impact on the country’s other obligations such as the prohibition of discrimination.
The death penalty was abolished from Swiss federal criminal law in 1942, but remained available in military criminal law until 1992.

Together with Spain, France and Norway, Switzerland is patron of the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty which is hosting around 1,500 delegates from over 90 states in Madrid until Saturday.

Today, 140 of the world’s 198 states have renounced the use of capital punishment, but a quarter still retain the death penalty. Executions continue to take place every year in around 20 states – mainly China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

In 2012, various states (Botswana, Gambia, India, Japan, Pakistan and Kuwait) reapplied the death penalty after years of de facto moratorium, according to the foreign ministry.

Bilateral talks

Prior to the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty, Didier Burkhalter held bilateral talks with his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel García-Margallo y Marfil.

Topics set to be discussed included the OSCE chairmanship which will be taken over by Switzerland in 2014, the situation in Europe, youth unemployment and bilateral issues.

“Step-by-step progress”

The stated Swiss goal is a “world without the death penalty” as capital punishment cannot be reconciled with respect for human rights and, in particular, violates the right to life, said the foreign ministry statement.

“Switzerland strives for step-by-step progress with this goal in mind. It advocates for a moratorium or at least certain limitations to be placed on the use of capital punishment in states which continue to employ the death penalty through lobbying at both the multilateral and bilateral level.”

The foreign ministry also calls for compliance with international standards concerning withholding the death penalty for minors and non-enforcement of capital punishment for pregnant women or mentally disabled persons.

In this regard, Switzerland supports, among others, the work of the International Commission against the Death Penalty which was launched at the Fourth World Congress in Geneva in 2010.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


Status of #Death Penalty Worldwide #mustshare

No death penalty


March 12, 2013 ,http://www.srai.org


According to Amnesty International, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty. In 2012, only one country, Latvia, abolished the death penalty for all crimes. In 2011, 21 countries around the world were known to have carried out executions and at least 63 to have imposed death sentences. See also U.S. Figures.


Death Penalty Outlawed (year)1


  • Albania (2000)
  • Andorra (1990)
  • Angola (1992)
  • Argentina (2008)
  • Armenia (2003)
  • Australia (1984)
  • Austria (1950)
  • Azerbaijan (1998)
  • Belgium (1996)
  • Bhutan (2004)
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina (1997)
  • Bulgaria (1998)
  • Burundi (2009 )
  • Cambodia (1989)
  • Canada (1976)
  • Cape Verde (1981)
  • Colombia (1910)
  • Cook Islands (2007)
  • Costa Rica (1877)
  • Côte d’Ivoire (2000)
  • Croatia (1990)
  • Cyprus (1983)
  • Czech Republic (1990)
  • Denmark (1933)
  • Djibouti (1995)
  • Dominican Republic (1966)
  • Ecuador (1906)
  • Estonia (1998)
  • Finland (1949)
  • France (1981)
  • Gabon (2010)
  • Georgia (1997)
  • Germany (1949)
  • Greece (1993)
  • Guinea-Bissau (1993)
  • Haiti (1987)
  • Honduras (1956)
  • Hungary (1990)
  • Iceland (1928)
  • Ireland (1990)
  • Italy (1947)
  • Kyrgyzstan (2007)
  • Kiribati (1979)
  • Latvia (2012)
  • Liechtenstein (1987)
  • Lithuania (1998)
  • Luxembourg (1979)
  • Macedonia (1991)
  • Malta (1971)
  • Marshall Islands (1986)
  • Mauritius (1995)
  • Mexico (2005)
  • Micronesia (1986)
  • Moldova (1995)
  • Monaco (1962)
  • Montenegro (2002)
  • Mozambique (1990)
  • Namibia (1990)
  • Nepal (1990)
  • Netherlands (1870)
  • New Zealand (1961)
  • Nicaragua (1979)
  • Niue (n.a.)
  • Norway (1905)
  • Palau (n.a.)
  • Panama (1903)
  • Paraguay (1992)
  • Philippines (2006)
  • Poland (1997)
  • Portugal (1867)
  • Romania (1989)
  • Rwanda (2007)
  • Samoa (2004)
  • San Marino (1848)
  • São Tomé and Príncipe (1990)
  • Senegal (2004)
  • Serbia (2002)
  • Seychelles (1993)
  • Slovakia (1990)
  • Slovenia (1989)
  • Solomon Islands (1966)
  • South Africa (1995)
  • Spain (1978)
  • Sweden (1921)
  • Switzerland (1942)
  • Timor-Leste (1999)
  • Togo (2009)
  • Turkey (2002)
  • Turkmenistan (1999)
  • Tuvalu (1978)
  • Ukraine (1999)
  • United Kingdom (1973)
  • Uruguay (1907)
  • Uzbekistan (2008)
  • Vanuatu (1980)
  • Vatican City (1969)
  • Venezuela (1863)


Death Penalty Outlawed for Ordinary Crimes2 (year)


  • Bolivia (1997)
  • Brazil (1979)
  • Chile (2001)
  • El Salvador (1983)
  • Fiji (1979)
  • Israel (1954)
  • Kazakhstan (2007)
  • Latvia (1999)
  • Peru (1979)


De Facto Ban on Death Penalty3 (year)4


  • Algeria (1993)
  • Benin (1987)
  • Brunei (1957)
  • Burkina Faso (1988)
  • Cameroon (1997)
  • Central African Republic (1981)
  • Congo (Republic) (1982)
  • Eritrea (n.a.)
  • Gambia (1981)
  • Ghana (n.a.)
  • Grenada (1978)
  • Kenya (n.a.)
  • Korea, South (1997.)
  • Laos (n.a.)
  • Liberia (n.a.)
  • Madagascar (1958)
  • Malawi (n.a.)
  • Maldives (1952)
  • Mali (1980)
  • Mauritania (1987)
  • Morocco (1993)
  • Myanmar (1993)
  • Nauru (1968)
  • Niger (1976)
  • Papua New Guinea (1950)
  • Russia (1999)
  • Sierra Leone (1998)
  • Sri Lanka (1976)
  • Suriname (1982)
  • Swaziland (n.a.)
  • Tajikistan (n.a.)
  • Tanzania (n.a.)
  • Tonga (1982)
  • Tunisia (1990)
  • Zambia (n.a.)


Death Penalty Permitted


  • Afghanistan
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belize
  • Botswana
  • Chad
  • China (People’s Republic)
  • Comoros
  • Congo (Democratic Republic)
  • Cuba
  • Dominica
  • Egypt
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Ethiopia
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Guyana
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Libya
  • Malaysia
  • Mongolia
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palestinian Authority
  • Qatar
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Uganda
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Zimbabwe


NOTE: n.a. = date not available. 1. If death penalty was outlawed for ordinary crimes before it was outlawed in all cases, the earlier date is given.


2. Death penalty is permitted only for exceptional crimes, such as crimes committed under military law or in wartime.


3. Death penalty is sanctioned by law but has not been the practice for ten or more years.


4. Year of last execution. Source: Amnesty International.

Read more: The Death Penalty Worldwide | Infoplease.comhttp://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0777460.html#ixzz2Mdc8o4MN




USA – States Without the #DeathPenalty Have Had Consistently Lower Murder Rates #mustread #mustshare

Year 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Murder Rate inDeath PenaltyStates* 9.5 9.94 9.51 9.69 9.23 8.59 7.72 7.09 6.51 5.86 5.70 5.82 5.82 5.91 5.71 5.87 5.90 5.83 5.72 5.26 5.00
Murder Rate in
Penalty States
9.16 9.27 8.63 8.81 7.88 6.78 5.37 5.00 4.61 4.59 4.25 4.25 4.27 4.10 4.02 4.03 4.22 4.10 4.05 3.90 4.01
42% 46% 40% 42% 41% 35% 25%











Murder Rate in

Death Penalty












Murder Rate in











Penalty States



















(click on year to see the murder rates and calculations involved in this analysis, provided by David Cooper)
* Includes Kansas and New York in the years after they adopted the death penalty, 1994 and 1995 respectively. New Jersey and New York ended the death penalty in the latter part of 2007 and will not be counted as death penalty states in 2008.


Populations are from the U.S. Census estimates for each year.

Murder rates are from the FBI‘s “Crime in the United States” and are per 100,000 population.

The murder rate for the region (death penalty states or non-death penalty states) is the total number of murders in the region divided by the total population (and then multiplied by 100,000)

In calculations that include Kansas and New York, Kansas is counted as a death penalty state from 1994 and New York from 1996, since New York’s law did not become effective until September, 1995.

Murder Rates in Death Penalty States and Non-Death Penalty States

The murder rate in non-death penalty states has remained consistently lower than the rate in states with the death penalty, and the gap has grown since 1990.



Michigan Lawmakers Reaffirm State’s Longstanding Ban on Capital PunishmentIn a vote upholding the state’s longstanding abolition of the death penalty, Michigan lawmakers refused to support a measure that would have put capital punishment before state voters in a referendum. The vote fell 18 short of the 2/3 required for passage. During a lengthy House debate regarding the bill, Representative Jack Minor (D-Flint) told his colleagues that studies show crime rates are lower in states without the death penalty. He noted, “The death penalty’s not a deterrent. In fact, the figures would suggest it’s just the opposite.” Other opponents of the measure stated that “revenge” would not help victims’ families. Michigan has not had the death penalty for 158 years, and voters have not addressed the issue since its abolition was included in the 1963 revision of the state constitution. Michigan is one of 12 states in the U.S. that does not have a death penalty. (Michigan Live, March 19, 2004) The state was the first English speaking government in the world to ban the practice.

States Without the Death Penalty Have Better Record on Homicide Rates – A new survey by the New York Times found that states without the death penalty have lower homicide rates than states with the death penalty. The Times reports that ten of the twelve states without the death penalty have homicide rates below the national average, whereas half of the states with the death penalty have homicide rates above. During the last 20 years, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 48% – 101% higher than in states without the death penalty. “I think Michigan made a wise decision 150 years ago,” said the state’s governor, John Engler, a Republican, referring to the state’s abolition of the death penalty in 1846. “We’re pretty proud of the fact that we don’t have the death penalty.” (New York Times, 9/22/00)

States Without the Death Penalty Fared Better Over Past Decade – In the past ten years, the number of executions in the U.S. has increased while the murder rate has declined. Some commentators have maintained that the murder rate has dropped because of the increase in executions (see, e.g., W. Tucker, “Yes, the Death Penalty Deters,” Wall St. Journal, June 21, 2002). However, during this decade the murder rate in non-death penalty states has remained consistently lower than the rate in states with the death penalty.

When comparisons are made between states with the death penalty and states without, the majority of death penalty states show murder rates higher than non-death penalty states. The average of murder rates per 100,000 population in 1999 among death penalty states was 5.5, whereas the average of murder rates among non-death penalty states was only 3.6.

A look at neighboring death penalty and non-death penalty states show similar trends. Death penalty states usually have a higher murder rate than their neighboring non-death penalty states.


The Sons of Men – #delhigangrape #vaw #mustread

December 23, 2012
Paromita Vohra, Mid-Day
Paromita VohraI wonder if all those who are demanding capital punishment for rape, will stop evading their taxes if tax evasion is made punishable by death. Demanding capital punishment, especially in the case of a crime which is tied to the very basis of the social structure — patriarchy and economic disparity — is just a way to absolve yourself of any responsibility in changing things while looking like you care.

Gendered violence — rape and domestic abuse — is underreported for a reason. Masculine violence is both glorified and institutionalised — and consequently, violence against women is hardly treated as crime, despite legislation. That our law itself distinguishes between eve teasing and sexual harassment makes the daily molestation of women sort-of excusable, instead of addressing a continuum where masculinity means asserting power by denigrating or oppressing others. Gendered violence comes into focus only when this violence takes the shape of a recognisable crime — death, or near-death, otherwise called murder.

Illustration/ Amit Bandre

Demanding capital punishment is to recognise the murder, but not acknowledge the nature of gendered violence. Telling other people what to do about a problem, establishes that you are not part of the problem, when, in fact, you are.
Thing is — I don’t want the Thane police chief to tell me to avoid night travel and carry red chilli powder (as if we didn’t know it’s our responsibility). I want to know what he’s thinking of doing to sensitise his department to make sense of a changing world and equip them to do their job well, in it.

I don’t want Salman Khan to say, “If not death they should be sentenced for life so they learn a lesson.” I want to hear him acknowledge the deep-rooted misogyny of his films and say that he will think of how his persona can be dabang in a way that does not involve objectifying women as much. I want to know how he’s going to set a good example to the millions of boys who look up to him. Deal, Salman bhai?

I don’t want successful indie filmmakers to shrug off the sexism and violence that their films glorify in the service of a clichéd cool. I want them to think about how their work practices and the poetic violence of their films stands for this aggressive masculine culture and see them do things differently, meaning, really, fundamentally, differently, as men.

I don’t want to hear my laddish friends dismiss the misogyny in Honey Singh’s lyrics because the music and rhythms and the local cultural references are so invigorating. I want Honey Singh to make fantastic songs about male angst and experience that do not involve asking a woman, “das de mainun ki hai rate.” Sure, sex is tangled up in thrilling threads of power play, but I’m sure men can imagine ways of expressing this that don’t involve crushing and objectifying women, sex and themselves.

And stop telling mothers to bring their sons up better. Tell fathers to set a good example. To explore ways of being men which don’t require asserting power over others as a fundamental affirmation. Teach them to find new ways of loving and being strong, instead of making them ashamed of sex or holding themselves up to punishing standards of what it means to be a successful man.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at http://www.parodevi.com.

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper. 

I oppose #deathpenalty, #bobbitization, #chemicalcastration for #Rape will you KILL me ? #ShameonTOI #Vaw

Dec 21, Kamayani Bali Mahabal

Shame on you TOI. Take  down the Advertisement   the Poll  and apologize.

And  you have kept barabaric options of  bobbitization and chemical castration ?  




Parliamentarians should shout for  JUSTICE and Convictions , instead of saying things like ‘zinda lash’ (living corpse) and asking for death penalty.

Chemical castration breaches the physical intrinsity of the human body. As we have abolished physical penalties (chopping off hands, beatings etc), why would we re-introduce . Since castration is irreversible, should this penalty be allowed, especially as our judicial  system has been proven to be wrong every now and then. And tell me how will it work ? you will have to give injections fo depo vera— every time a rape is committed,  there will  someone  running behind the rapist on road to inject him ???

WITH THIS WHOLE CLAMOUR OF DEATH PENALTY, All the  Politician sitting in our parliament  are superficial people , the media wants more eyeballs and suddenly we have this knee jerk reaction to gang rape coming out in form of REVENGE and not JUSTICE. What a twisted logic is that  capital punishment will be an effective deterrent to potential rapists. The quantum of punishment does not deter crime. In fact, the higher the punishment, the lower the conviction rate.is required is speedy trial. Ensure speedy trials. That would deter would-be rapists.

If rape and violence against women are not rare but occur within every class, and at a variety of junctures, making the offense itself almost ordinary by nature of its frequency of occurrences, then to accord the death penalty for such cases would simply reduce convictions .Before the death penalty get the convictions right. 

The convictions against cases of violence against women, especially rape cases are themselves extremely complex and pivot around the nuanced issues of consent/force.  It is never a simple and straightforward matter to determine whether the woman had consented.  From the beginning? At what point otherwise? To what extent was she willing to have physical relations with a man? But at which point did it become force or coercion?  The entire issue of violence against women is not easily amenable to legalistic jargon that makes claims to truth “based on a binary logic which sets up oppositions like truth/untruth, guilt/innocence, consent/non-consent.  This binary logic is completely inappropriate to… the ambiguity of rape.

Women’s bodies as the new reason to kill ?

The point is “Death Penalty” to rapists is a reinforcement of the same “honour-shame” syndrome. Moreover why will the rapist not get rid of all possible evidence, which might take him towards death penalty? Yes, I mean why will he not kill the rape survivor in the end of the day? Moreover why should we go by the Sexual Hierarchy set by our patriarchal society? A sexual assault is a sexual assault and can’t be judged by the parameters of “penetration” alone. A Trauma is a trauma and can’t be judged by the parameters of “Honour” and “Shame”. In the end no woman loses her “honour” when she is raped. She loses it when she allows her mind to believe it.

The ideological underpinnings of the demand for the death penalty for rape reflect the traditional patriarchal and reactionary view of women as property.  Rape is seen not as an assault on the integrity of the women as assaulted, but far more as an assault of the community, of society, of the nation.The demand for death penalty  hides  certain power relations and assumptions made by those advocating the death penalty.  Furthermore, they point to the fact that bringing in the death penalty for rape will not in anyway increase convictions, but may lower the already very low-levels of convictions because of fear to convict any rapist incase of error. 

 The death penalty weighs the scales of justice heavily in favour of the state by giving the state legally sanctioned power over the life and death of its citizens.  Such power all too often is used arbitrarily; it is applied neither uniformly nor fairly, even in cases of the same nature and severity.  In many cases, the decision to apply the death sentence is driven by issues other than the crime itself.

By playing to the desire for revenge in individual cases, states in which the death penalty is used ignore difficult questions about the relationship between crime, the criminal and the state.  A fake sense of moral superiority is thus sustained as culpability is shifted from formal and informal social, political and economic structures of domination and oppression, solely to the accused.

  Hence for  me , a FEMINIST ,  these promises of security, better safety and liberty have been questionable and problematic.  It hides the strong link between justice and the state and how justice may operate to benefit certain parties only.  The  use of women’s bodies and the category of violence against women to insist on the death penalty is a manipulation of the feminist agenda and its concern for women into a tool by others (including but not exclusively the state) to control and discipline its citizens further.

As suggested by Foucault, the prison itself maybe a new way of ordering society, of disciplining it and creating new forms of docile bodies constituted in such a way as to make the power of the state and certain groups more effective.  It is important then to rethink forms of correction and punishment to ensure that those convicted of crimes are not merely placed in another institution in which power is even more insidious than even the death penalty or public executions.




Death Penalty -Brings out basal instincts of a society


Irfan Engineer, Dec 1, 2012:Deccan Herald



No death penalty

No death penalty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The march of history has been from more brutal and violent societies to more humane, inclusive and less violent societies; and from authoritarian to democratic states.

The objective of punishment awarded by the society to the delinquents and non-conformists too evolved from that of retribution to deterrence and reformation of the delinquent.


According to “Rational Choice Theory”, objective of any punishment should be deterrence rather than retribution.


Punishments inflicted by the state during ancient times and medieval period included boiling to death, feeding to hungry lions, flaying, slow slicing, truncating (cutting the body below the ribs and leaving the delinquent to bleed to death), disembowelment, crucifixion, inquisitions, crushing by an elephant, stoning, blowing from the gun, burning at stakes, sawing, decapitation, guillotining, public hanging and firing squad. These are by no means an exhaustive list but only indicative.


These punishments were administered on those who rebelled against the state, practised a different religion or were dissidents and non-conformists. Galileo, who defended heliocentrism and questioned earth as centre of universe was also tried and inquisitioned for his belief. He, however, retracted from his discovery and submitted himself to the doctrines of the Church.


By 1820 in Britain, there were about 160 crimes (down from 220 crimes during its peak) that were punished by death, including the crimes like shoplifting, petty theft, being in the company of gypsies for one month and strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age. Many crimes punishable by death in fact protected the property of wealth. Henry VIII is reputed to have executed as many as 72,000 people.


In the 19th century, Roman Republic, Venezuela, San Marino and Portugal abolished capital punishment in the years 1849, 1854, 1865 and 1867 respectively.


Attitudes changed by World War II, class barriers came down and people felt sickened by the holocaust of Nazi Germany. In 1948, the United Nations issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and this was adopted by Britain in 1950. The last execution by UK was in 1964.


The Labour Party Government of Harold Wilson suspended death penalty for five years through an enactment in 1965. House of Commons reaffirmed its decision to abolish capital punishment for murder in 1969. On December 10, 1999, International Human Rights Day, UK ratified Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, thus, totally abolishing capital punishment in Britain.


Sanctity of life


With the strengthening of democracies, there was increasing culture of tolerating dissent and differences. Sanctity of life is increasingly accepted and believed that society did not have the right to take away anyone’s life. Eye for an eye will make the whole world blind said Gandhiji. Collective conscience of a society should not be blood thirsty. There is increasing realisation of a possibility that person condemned to gallows could be under some mistake. Once executed the mistake cannot be corrected.


In 20th century, Australia abolished capital punishment in 1973, Canada in 1976, France in 1981. In 1977, UN General Assembly affirmed in a formal resolution that it is desirable to “progressively restrict the number of offences for which the death penalty might be imposed, with a view to the desirability of abolishing this punishment.”


On November 20, 2012, UN General Assembly’s Third Committee voted in support of its fourth resolution for a moratorium on the use of death penalty with a view to abolishing it. Nine-one member states sponsored the resolution, and was approved with 110 votes in favour, 39 votes against and 36 abstentions. India voted against the resolution.


The world is slowly moving towards abolition of death penalty or moratorium on its use. Two-thirds of the countries have abolished death penalty or have ceased to apply it. In most Latin American countries, in Argentina, Brazil,  Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru  and Uruguay, Venezuela. In Europe – Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, Iceland, and many of the States in the United States of America, have abolished death sentence. Death penalty is considered to violate human dignity.


However, 60 per cent of world’s population lives in states where capital punishment is on their statutes, including China, India, US and Indonesia – the four most populous states. Fifty-eight countries actively practise, 97 countries have abolished it and the rest have not used it for 10 years, or used it in exceptional circumstances like wartime. Article 2 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits use of capital punishment.


Abolition and after


There is no evidence of any increase in crimes after abolition of death penalty. In Greece banditry decreased after it ceased to be punishable by death and in Canada instances of rape decreased after abolition of death penalty for the offence. In England, there was no increase in crimes which ceased to be capital murders under the Homicide Act of 1957.


In the year 2011, 21 countries recorded executions, as compared to 31 countries 10 years ago. China executed maximum number of people, though China recently eliminated death penalty for certain economic crimes and reintroduced mandatory review of all death penalty cases by the Supreme People’s Court. Drugs, homosexuality and terrorism are issues on which some countries are expanding the scope of death penalty.


Abolitionists and retentionists for capital punishment argue for and against death penalty on many grounds. Generally, the right wing nationalists who are ideologically oriented to building an authoritarian state and retaining hierarchical order tend to be retentionists. Investigators and Prosecutors in criminal justice system too tend to be retentionists hoping that capital punishment would act as a deterrent.


Whereas those ideologically oriented towards building a more humanitarian society with emphasis on equality, equity and social justice tend to be abolitionists. They argue that as inequities and injustices increase, so do crime, irrespective of retributive punishment.


Cruelty in punishment


The person perceived as cruel criminal by a section could be fighting for justice and become a hero for others and any cruelty in punishment makes such a person a bigger martyr to be emulated by others.


Therefore, cruelty of punishment alone could not be burdened with deterring crime. It is a just and equitable society where compassion for a wrong doer is a value and reformation is an objective that reforms the criminal. Reformed criminal is a louder and clearer message to deter crime.


Disproportionate number of people from marginalised sections of the society – poor, ethnic and religious minorities and lower castes are handed down death penalty. For example, 41 per cent of death row inmates and 34 per cent of those executed in US are African Americans though they constitute 12 per cent of US population.


To conclude, death penalty and legal execution of any human being brings out worst retributionist sentiments and violent animal instincts of a society evident from the interviews of ordinary people on TV after execution of Kasab. The sooner the world is free from such basal instincts, the better.

(The writer is Director, Institute for Peace Studies, and member of All India Secular Forum.)



#India- Supreme Court asks Govt-Why not abolish mandatory death penalty?

By , TNN | Dec 2, 2012,

Why mandatory death penalty be not abolished? Supreme Court asks govt
On a PIL by a Delhi-based NGO challenging the constitutional validity of Section 31A of NDPS Act, a Bombay HC bench in 2011 had held that the provision is violative of Article 21 as it provides for a mandatory death penalty.
NEW DELHI: Days after a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court said it was time to revisit jurisprudence behind imposition of death penalty, the apex court asked the Union government why provisions in some laws mandating compulsory death penalty as punishment be not struck down as unconstitutional.

The question from a bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranajana Desai put additional solicitor general Siddharth Luthra in a piquant position for he had sought to argue the Centre’s appeal against a Bombay high court judgment diluting the mandatory death penalty prescribed under section 31A of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act for repeat offenders trading in huge quantities of contraband.

Though the Union government’s appeal challenged the Bombay HC’s decision to read down Section 31A to provide the concerned Judge with the discretion of imposing life sentence, the bench decided to take suo motu of other similar provisions in some laws warranting mandatory imposition of death penalty. The read down principle limits a provision of law.

Expressing its view on statutory provisions mandating compulsory capital punishment, the bench said prima facie it appeared to be violative of Article 21 (right to life) and Article 14 (non-discrimination/equality).

On a PIL by a Delhi-based NGO Indian Harm Reduction Network challenging the constitutional validity of Section 31A of NDPS Act, a Bombay HC bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and AP Bhangale on June 16, 2011, had held that the provision is violative of Article 21 as it provides for a mandatory death penalty.

“Instead of declaring Section 31A as unconstitutional, we accede to the alternative argument of the Union government that the said provision be construed as directory by reading down the expression ‘shall be punishable with death’ as ‘may be punishable with death’ in relation to the offences covered under Section 31A of the Act,” the HC had said.

The HC had further clarified — “Thus, the court will have discretion to impose punishment specified in Section 31A of the Act for offences covered by Section 31A of the Act. But, in appropriate cases, the court can award death penalty for the offences covered by Section 31A upon recording reasons therefore.”

The Union government challenged this reading down of the provision and in its appeal before the apex court said sentencing was, essentially, a legislative policy and that it was also the legislature’s prerogative whether to grant courts any discretion while imposing sentence under a provision of a penal statute.

It said: “the mandatory death penalty provided in Section 31A is in the nature of minimum sentence in respect of repeat offenders of specified activities and for offences involving huge quantities of specified categories of narcotic drugs.”

“Would it still be open for the court to reduce the minimum sentence provided for by the Legislature?” the Union government asked and said offences falling under NDPS Act had been held by the apex court to be of such nature which had deleterious effect and deadly impact on the society as a whole. “The Supreme Court had time and again held that narcotic crimes are more heinous than murder,” it said.

Section 31A is attracted only in cases where a person who has been convicted of either embezzlement of opium by a licensed cultivator (Section 19), unauthorized trade and external dealing in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (Section 24), financing illicit trafficking and harbouring offenders (Section 27A) and for offences involving commercial quantity of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.”


Done to Death -Politics of punishment #deathpenalty

Manoj Mitta | November  2012, Times Crest




The higher the penalty, the greater the rigor that the courts are expected to display in arriving at the decision. It is however hard to apply this principle, ironically enough, to the highest possible penalty: namely, death. This has been admitted by the highest court of the land over and over again, the last time being literally on the eve of Ajmal Kasab‘s hanging. In a verdict delivered on November 20, Justice Madan Lokur said that in capital offences “it has become judge-centric sentencing rather than principled sentencing”.

But then, can this be said even about the decision to hang Kasab? If there was ever an open-and-shut case of capital crime, it was of course that of the only attacker to have survived the 26/11 massacre. So, whoever the judges were at the three levels of courts that had handled his case, it was most unlikely that any of them would have spared him the noose. It takes a crime of the magnitude of 26/11 to carve an exception to Justice Lokur’s formulation that the recourse to the death penalty depended on the judge rather than any principle. There was still an element of uncertainty about the punishment awarded to Kasab. And that was whether he would be executed at all and, if so, when.

This uncertainty was demonstrated in Kasab’s case by the utter secrecy and suddenness with which he was transferred to Pune and hanged there, early in the morning on November 21. It came as a complete surprise because even the President’s rejection of Kasab’s mercy petition had been kept under wraps for over a fortnight. A lot of high-level political decisions were involved in Kasab’s execution, beginning with the home ministry’s recommendation to the President to reject his mercy petition to taking a call on where he should be hanged to whether the hanging should take place so soon after Bal Thackeray‘s death.

Thus, whether it is about its pronouncement or about its execution, the decisions on death penalty are based more on politics than on law. Consider the manner in which the Kasab hanging triggered off a debate between the ruling and opposition parties on the longpending mercy petition of Afzal Guru, who had been sentenced to death in the Parliament attack case of 2001. Amid reports of the home ministry having recommended Guru’s hanging as well, it is uncertain as to where exactly the file is pending as of today. Unlike Kasab, Guru was not among the actual attackers. If Guru’s fate is still sought to be linked with Kasab’s hanging, at least in the public discourse, it is yet another indication of politics being a predominant factor.

There is a wide range of ways in which the subjectivity of politics has shown its edge over the objectivity of law in the context of death penalty: None of the major political parties has taken cognizance of the Supreme Court’s admitted inability to evolve a uniform standard for determining the “rarest of rare cases” in which the death penalty can be imposed. In recent years, the Supreme Court has repeatedly admitted the incongruity of weighing aggravating and mitigating circumstances to determine whether a convict fell in the rarest of rare cases. Since aggravating circumstances relate to the crime and mitigating circumstances relate to the criminal, the apex court’s latest verdict said: “The considerations for both are distinct and unrelated. The use of the mantra of aggravating and mitigating circumstances needs a review. ”

This was as close as the judiciary could have come to admitting to the arbitrariness inherent in most cases of death penalty. The horrendous implication is that death penalty is being imposed on standards that are not entirely justifiable or uniform. Yet, none of the political leaders participating in the death penalty debate has deemed it fit to call for a review of the very policy of retaining that irrevocable punishment in the statute book. The political silence on the churning within the judiciary on the efficacy of the death penalty testifies to the larger social indifference to this human rights issue.

Though Kasab’s hanging is just the second in over a decade, India has never adopted a moratorium on the death penalty despite a global trend. NGO, When Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged in 2004, it was after a lapse of six years. Kasab’s execution came after a lapse of eight years. The executions are so rare although courts, bound as they are by the law, have been every now and then awarding death sentences. The fault-line between the pronouncement of death sentence and its actual execution testifies to the increasing discomfort within the system. The very low frequency of executions was widely perceived as a tacit moratorium on death penalty. In fact, while responding to Kasab’s execution, Human Rights Watch, a global NGO, lamented the lifting of the moratorium in India. This was despite the fact that India, defying a global trend, has consistently refused to support UN resolutions calling for a moratorium on death penalty. The last such instance was virtually on the eve of Kasab’s hanging.

Kasab’s mercy petition was disposed of ahead of those like Guru who have been awaiting the President’s decision for far longer periods. Politics is writ large on the decision to give precedence to Kasab’s mercy plea over that of Guru’s. For, being a Pakistani national, and given the gravity and incontrovertible nature of his crime, there was little domestic support for Kasab. Afzal Guru on the other hand is seen by sections of Kashmiris as a symbol of India’s alleged excesses in their state. This is particularly because of Guru’s claim that he had a long record of being victimized by security forces in Kashmir and that it was at their instance that he had got mixed up with the conspiracy to attack Parliament. Whatever the intrinsic merits of the two cases, the extraneous factors made it easier for the government to take up Guru’s case ahead of Kasab’s.
Kasab was denied his right to challenge the President’s decision although the execution of other high profile convicts has been stayed by courts even after their mercy petitions had been rejected. Ever since this right has been laid down by the Supreme Court in Kehar Singh’s case in 1988, there have been several instances of death row convicts obtaining stay orders on their execution on various grounds even after the President had rejected their mercy petitions. The three Rajiv Gandhi killers, for instance, obtained a stay last year from the Madras high court on the ground that the President had decided their mercy petitions after an inordinate delay. The hush-hush manner in which Kasab was executed within days of the President’s decision betrayed a political resolve to avoid the risk of a judicial stay on his execution. The political calculation clearly was that the government had everything to gain and nothing to lose by executing Kasab.
Balwant Singh Rajoana’s execution has been stayed by the government although he never appealed against the death sentence or sought pardon. The killer of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh is a rare death row convict displaying courage of convict. His principled refusal to ask for mercy forced the Centre to stay the execution on its own to avoid political trouble in Punjab.
No policy debate so far on replacing hanging with more humane forms of execution such as lethal injection. Although the Law Commission about a decade ago recommended the lethal injection as an alternative, the government has so far shown little inclination to make any reform on the death penalty front. Hanging is part of popular consciousness in India and there is no political will to replace that form of punishment, however barbaric.


Need to rethink death penalty, says Shinde

Express news service : Mumbai, Mon Nov 26 2012, 01:34 hrs

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said on Sunday that the government needs to “rethink” its policy on capital punishment.

Speaking at the Idea Exchange programme organised by Loksatta, the Marathi newspaper of The Indian Express Group, Shinde said: “We need to rethink. We (the government and Rashtrapati Bhavan) received a representation from 13-14 eminent Indian persons yesterday demanding a ban on death penalty. There should not be cruelty. They said these convicts (should) be made to serve in jail and need not be released on parole.”

Shinde’s statement comes just days after 26/11 terror attack convict Ajmal Amir Kasab was hanged.

The Home Minister, however, added that in Kasab’s case, the question of “cruelty” did not arise as he was part of the team that killed 166 people in Mumbai.

On the other terror convict on death row, Afzal Guru, Shinde said the home ministry had received the file on his mercy petition from Rashtrapati Bhavan yesterday.

“The file has been sent to me yesterday, but I have not read it yet. We will take a decision after examining all legal angles,” he said.

Shinde said there are several letters from the international community too stating that there should not be capital punishment. “For many years, there has been a thought process. We need to rethink,” he added.

Last week, India opposed a resolution in the UN general assembly seeking abolition of death penalty. While 110 countries supported the resolution, India, China, Pakistan, South Korea, Japan and the US were among the 39 countries which opposed it.


‘Will not contest polls’

“I do not wish to contest elections in 2014. I have got much from the Congress and reached this post. I want to retire,” said Union Home Minister and veteran Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde, adding that he does not wish to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha either.

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