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‘Death penalty in India is a legal lottery’

February 16, 2013

Justice Ajit Shah says that it has been proven beyond doubt that death sentence does not serve as a deterrent against crime; the reason why two third of the world has abolished it all together. He explains the bizarre nature of how the death sentence in India is judge centric and how under the same set of circumstances, some have received the death sentence, while others have been given life and still others acquitted. Death sentence is judge centric with many judges having a history of doling out death penalties and other being kind. Death sentence is thus nothing but a ‘legal lottery’ where if you are lucky you get a lenient judge you survive, else you end up at the gallows. He talks about the caste and class connection to death sentence, where the lower castes and lower classes are usually the ones sent to the gallows because they cannot afford proper legal aid. He says that this discriminatory nature renders death penalty unconstitutional and that there is the need for a larger debate on the same. 

Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights held a public meeting with renowned law professionals on the 12th of February, 2013 in favour of the abolition of the Death Penalty in India.

This video was shot at a public meeting called by the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights [CPDR] to oppose the retention of death sentence in India on 12th February 2013 between 5.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. at Multi Media Room, St. Xavier’s College, First Floor, Mahapalika Marg, Mumbai, India.

The speakers at the meeting were Justice Hosbet Suresh [Retd.], Justice Ajit Shah [Retd.], Ms. Pushpa Bhave and Dr. Yug Mohit Chaudhry.

Produced by: Vivek Sundara; Camera: Satyen K. Bordoloi

Yug Mohit Chaudhry says that we are all aware of the corruption and dishonesty of our police force and their investigative methods. Yet, we need them. However, are we dumb enough to take their words and send a person to the gallows for it? In such a case, how is it that death sentence is not a crime? He gives stunning examples of how easy it is to manufacture circumstantial evidence and how in many cases police have not only manufactured circumstantial evidence, but also found witnesses to punish those who are nowhere connected to the crime at hand. He says that the law and justice thus end up as two very different things and that one should always strive for justice.

As a judge, I may have the power to give death penalty, but I do not have the right to do so: says Justice Hosbert Suresh (Retd.) as he deconstructs the judicial mindset that leads a judge to give death penalty. He says that the courts should understand what ‘rarest of the rare’ means and that when considering a death sentence, one should also look at the person and whether he is beyond reform. He says that it is the job of the proscecution to prove that a person is beyond reform and that should be the criteria, to consider death penalty. It is extremely dangerous when the government meddles with the judiciary and comes out with the criteria of ‘rarest of rare’ as it is doing now. In the end he says, that death penalty is nothing but murder by trial.

Miss Pushpa Bhave warns of the dangers of allowing the public to play judge, jury and executioner. She says that when the public hysteria for blood reaches fever pitch, it is bound to lead to miscarriage of justice. Political leaders, she says, have twisted ideas where the make people believe that cruelty is valour thus opposite death sentence, they construct as anti-national all for their own benefits. Death penalty she says, is nothing but a human rights violation and thus unconstitutional.

Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights held a public meeting with renowned law professionals on the 12th of February, 2013 in favour of the abolition of the Death Penalty in India. Sadly, Afzal Guru was hanged in a unjudicial and undemocratic way two days before and though the meeting was not planned accordingly, the topicality of the issue was too much to ignore. The CPDR hence drafted a statement. Here Monica Sakhrani reads out a statement by the CPDR against the hanging of Afzal Guru and makes four demands from the Government of India:
a) Delhi Govt. hands over the body of Afzal Guru to his wife so that his family is able to perform his last rights.
b) the Government of India abolishes the death sentence as a method of punishment in India in all crimes.
c) till the death sentence is abolished, the Government of India declares a moratorium on executions and
d) the GoI forthwith signs and ratifies the United Nations second option protocol to the international covenant on civil and political rights on the abolition of death penalty.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. anonymous indian permalink
    February 16, 2013 2:23 AM

    “Justice Ajit Shah talks about the caste and class connection to death sentence, where the lower castes and lower classes are usually the ones sent to the gallows because they cannot afford proper legal aid. He says that this discriminatory nature renders death penalty unconstitutional and that there is the need for a larger debate on the same.”

    this applies to murders, robberies, rapes etc. So by this argument we should scrap all laws and wind up courts……..

    • February 16, 2013 9:40 AM

      Its remarkable that you don’t see any difference between death penalty and other punishments.

  2. Indian permalink
    February 16, 2013 11:50 AM

    “The ‘rarest of rare case’ test is not ‘judge centric’ but depends on the perception of society and whether it would approve the award of death sentence to those convicted in certain types of crimes, the Supreme Court has held.

    “Courts award death sentence, because situation demands, due to constitutional compulsion, reflected by the will of the people, and not judge-centric,” a bench headed by Justice K S Radhakrishnan said.

    “To award death sentence, the aggravating circumstances (crime test) have to be fully satisfied and there should be no mitigating circumstance (criminal test) favouring the accused.

    “Even if both the tests are satisfied as against the accused, even then the court has to finally apply the rarest of rare cases test, which depends on the perception of the society and not judge-centric, that is whether the society will approve the awarding of death sentence to certain types of crime,” the bench also comprising Justice Dipak Misra said. – http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=789420

    Such a shame in a country known for blood lust against the minorities! Shame!!

  3. Indian permalink
    February 16, 2013 11:55 AM

    And this is for people who claim that the Supreme Court is infallible – http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2917/stories/20120907291700400.htm

  4. kapil permalink
    February 16, 2013 1:42 PM

    I have the different opinion, capital punishment serve as a deterrent to crime, the most heinous crime and professional criminal and serial criminal which can not be cured by the prison system need to be given capital punishment. sadly even our Criminal code IPC 1860 is criminal centric i.e. more on reformative type..there are many benefit available to criminal like parole etc. but forgot the victim. and previous law commission has said that capital punishment work as deterrent for crime. we mush keep ti mind that our society is not as developed as europian societies so we should not follow their norms blindly.

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