Editorials on the Formation of the Constitutional Formation for the Death Penalty
The death penalty is one of the most controversial issues in the country. On Monday, the Supreme Court appointed a five-judge constitution bench to set standards and guidelines for trial courts in handing out the death penalty.
Editorials in English newspapers hailed the court’s decision.
An editorial in Indian Express called it a “welcome intervention”, pointing out that the death row debate in India “cannot ignore the reality of structural discrimination against those of a certain caste, class and religion”.
“In India, at a time of increasing death penalty legislation, raising the procedural bar in the imposition of the death penalty is a crucial balance between total abolition and active defense of the death penalty,” did he declare. He called the case a “crucial opportunity to bring consistency in practice and thereby ensure that those facing the death penalty receive a fair, humane – and just hearing”.
India time said that given the “many disturbing trends in the lower courts”, a “procedural do’s and don’ts tribunal will be really helpful”. While India “rarely executes death row inmates”, according to the editorial, “Trial courts hand down dozens of death sentences every year”.
On discrimination in the system, he said: “The poorest convicts often do not receive quality legal aid and the death penalty for an innocent person is an irremediable miscarriage of justice.”
Hindustan time took the same line, noting that trial courts “relyed heavily on aggravating circumstances to set the sentence, and in 51% of cases, mitigating circumstances were not considered”. He called the Supreme Court’s decision “an important step toward solving this problem.”
He hoped the court would also provide clarity on issues such as whether a “wider shift in mentality may be affected, particularly from prosecution agencies seeking the maximum sentence”. Hindustan time noted that most death row inmates come from marginalized backgrounds.
Deccan Herald also published an op-ed on Tuesday, saying the court had “done the right thing to look closely at an important aspect of the death penalty that has not received sufficient attention thus far.”
The editorial differentiates between sentences and convictions: “In the current pattern and practice of judicial decision-making, punishment is not as important as a conviction. Once the court decides the accused is guilty, sentencing tends to become quick and easy.
The editorial concluded, “Capital punishment is inherently wrong and will become irrelevant if the idea of reform of the convict, not retribution, becomes the central idea of the criminal justice system.”
Newslaundry previously reported on the findings of the 2016 Death Penalty Project report – how those on death row are largely poor, uneducated and from SC, ST, OBC or religious minorities. Torture is rampant and there are gross breaches of procedure when prisoners are in pretrial detention. Read our report here.
Also watch Kunal Kamra and Sanjay Rajoura’s debate on the abolition of the death penalty.