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Syllabus: General Studies Essay Paper: JUDICIARY



“In any case, frequent punishments are a sign of weakness or slackness in the government. There is no man so bad that he cannot be made good for something. No man should be put to death, even as an example, if he can be left to live without danger to society.” 

                                                                                          ― Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 

“Why should we kill people who killed people, to show that killing people is wrong?” – this was always a thought-provoking question held against the death penalty.

Following several high profile cases such as Khatma incidence the cabinet approved the introduction of death penalty. For child rapists the move has its supporters as well as critics. First we will understand the meaning of death penalty.

The death penalty refers to executing a person who had been found guilty of committing crime under their legal system. It could be considered as a payback to the killer, or from restraining potential crimes being committed again in the future, by sentencing criminals to death in different ways. The death penalty existed since ancient times with texts detaining various forms of death penalty such as beheading, stamped by an elephant etc. Death penalty is followed in many countries including India. in recent times ,criminals who were sentenced to death are, terrorist  Ajmal kasab , Afzal guru.

Death penalty has various modes, such as death by hanging, electric chair, chemical injections, beheading etc. It is often a matter of controversy and said that death penalty eliminates criminals and not crime. Let us examine the statement.

Opponent of death penalty such as Amnesty international argue that, death penalty can only eliminate criminals and not crime. They argue that deterrence effect of penalty is overstated. For example we can consider Nirbhaya case, where criminal was awarded death sentence, despite of this action, still there are many rape incidence and murders happening in our country. This can be highlighted with khatma incident.

Death penalty is also fought with several legal challenges. There is a possibility that an innocent may be sentenced to death, due to improper investigation or due to several shortcomings of the justice system. For instance police ratio is 131/lakh is several digits below than UN prescribed 222/lakh.  Further with estimated 30% vacancy in judiciary, and long pending cases, there is a possibility that an innocent may be sentenced to death. Further an innocent being sentenced to death is morally reprehensible act.

Death penalty in addition does not address the root of the problem. The conditions which led to the problem. Poverty is seen as one of the major cause, which provokes people to do crime, in addition patriarchal mind set (honor killing), increase in individualism and materialism (robberies, rapes) etc, and rise in mental health issues (depression).

Death penalty is also seen as discriminatory targets, mainly the weaker section of society. For instance several studies reveal that the death penalty awarded proportion was higher in minorities and backward class compared to other section of the society. Non democratic countries it is used to scuffle dissents. For example dissidents in saudiarabia are  beheaded. Such actions which restrict free flow of idea are not conducive to human rights.

There are several moral objections to the death penalty. According to Mahatma Gandhi

” An eye for an Eye will make the whole world blind.” Mahatma Gandhi always stressed on a point that hate the sin and not the sinner. But death penalty leads to attack the sinner not the sin.

According to Immanuel kant, every human is bestowed with dignity which must be respected. Great philosopher Pluto said that justice should be  in reform and not in retribution. There is also a saying that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

Death penalty has always contradicted human rights and human dignity. Firstly, it violates the right of life, which appears to be the most fundamental of all human rights. Every individual should have the right to live, even criminals should be given a chance, even murderers, are just human after all. Moreover, the death penalty violates human right of not to be subjected to any cruelty, violent torture or inhumane treatment and punishment. 

However proponents of the death penalty argue that it is a necessary evil in society. most of the proponents say that your hand touching something hot. You don’t touch it again because you are afraid to get burned. Therefore, Fear is a deterrent.  Thanatophobia is the clinical term for fear of death.  People all over the world suffer from thanatophobia. Therefore, People fear death. Fear is a deterrent. People fear death.  Therefore, the death penalty is a deterrent.

For example the victims of the brutal 26/11 Mumbai case, experienced closure  and felt justice was done when kasab was hanged to death. In addition death penalty serves as powerful deterrent to potential criminals and brings harmony in society.

Further certain rarest of rare cases, which are crimes against humanity , include genocides, holocaust etc. Death penalty assures members of society that justice has been done. And the long arm of the law eventually catches wrong doers.

However, death penalty may treat symptom but it cannot cure root cause of disease. What is needed is long lasting reforms. Criminal justice system should function at full capacity- police as well as judges. laws should be updated and Morden methods of investigation such as forensic should be promoted. In addition court cases should not be stretched endlessly; instead justice should be done at faster pace and regularity. it is prompt justice and not the quantum of punishment which acts a deterrent.

In addition our prison system also needs to be changed, jails should be better designed to include ideas like e-learning, skill development, meditation and other productive activities. Tihar jail is an example for using its prisoners productively.

At a societal level a change in attitude is needed, which can be developed by providing value education among the youth and others. The values like empathy, compassion need to be promoted in society.


 Death penalty, It is neither necessary, moral, economical, fair, nor a reasonable deterrent to future crime. The idea of death penalty may assure criminals pay heavy price for their crimes, but the true idea of justice as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi is in Reform. The greatest deterrent to crime is the likelihood that offenders will be apprehended, convicted and punished. It is that which is presently lacking in our criminal justice system; If the idea is to end violence in society, then killing is certainly not the answer. Thus, there is a need to stop death penalty.


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